In the 60’s and 70’s Oak Noll Street in Minden was the place to be, especially if you were a pre-teen or a teenager. Looking back, the street seemed to be straight out of a movie set. Almost every home was filled with kids and most of them were all about the same age. Most were boys… with a girl or two thrown in for good measure.
It was during those times, when all a parent had to do was stick their head out the door and holler and you would come a runnin’. It was a time when families sat down to eat meals together. It was the years when we thought we didn’t have much to do, especially during the summer! It was pure Americana at its best! It was the time in you life that everything you did was an experience. It was our age of innocence!
I was able to have my Oak Noll experiences, because of my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Pete and Cousins Gary and Craig Couch. They moved to 708 Oak Noll from Dubach, La., to be closer to the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, where my Aunt and Uncle both worked. During this time LAAP was at full production, due to the Vietnam War. My two cousins fit right in with the Oak Noll way of life, without any problems. You had to be a little on the mischievous side to fit in without anyone noticing. They were both “up to snuff” on trouble. They had a PHD in “TROUBLE”.
Across the street you had the Rentz family with three kids’ two boys the same age as my cousins (Lamar, Randy (DINK) & little sister Donna Sue). Next door to the Rentz’s you had the Davis family with the same set up, two boys and one sister. Next to the Davis’s you had the Brook’s & McEachern’s and then the Culpepper’s with more boys. At the top of the hill you had the McCrary’s and the McCowen’s with more kids. You had the Hines family next door, with their bunch (now Dr. Carl Hines and Sister Ava Morgan). On the corner you had the Sander’s family, with son Guy. There were 20 to 30 kids on this street, all within a few years of age to each other. To go along with all the kids, you had dogs, cats, raccoons, birds and one rescued fawn as residents of the neighborhood. The fawn was found beside the road one evening by my Aunt and Uncle on their way home from the Shell Plant. Bambi would later venture down to Sander’s Gulf, before being let go in a game reserve.
I loved to ride my bike from my house to Oak Noll. We were over there almost, everyday. My family did a lot of cooking, out on the newly installed gas grill. The yards were a-glow at night with the new gas lights and grills that were all the rage back then. We would all gather for my Uncle Pete’s Bar-B-Q Chicken with all the fixin’s including homemade peach ice cream(Uncle Pete had a peach route so we called him “Pete the Peach”). I have never had better Bar-B-Q chicken or peach ice cream since.
The big thing to come to Minden back then was the ICEE machine in the store next to Sander’s Gulf station. (The voting machines are kept in this building now.) It was the only one in town for the longest time. I would get my younger brother or sister to call my uncle Pete in the afternoon, after my mama went to work at the parish library. Uncle Pete never let us down; he would drive across town to deliver the frozen ICEE treats. The store sold a wide assortment of candy such as the huge Jaw Breakers that my cousin Craig kept in his mouth all the time. My… mother would never let me have one because she thought I would choke! They had little wax coke bottles of syrup and candy cigarettes too (no candy cigarettes for me either).
The boys would build ramps to jump their bikes over. All the cool banana seats and the tall sissy bars were the rage back then. Skate boards also came out during this time. Oak Noll was the first street to have a skate board ramp, I’m sure! There were a few garage bands and everyone could at least play Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”. At night we would stand under the street lights with socks tied in knots to throw’em in the air, so the bats would dive at them. We would play hide and seek at night and climb up the huge Magnolia tree at the end of the street. This tree has now taken over the whole yard; at times it’s still tempting to get out of my car and hide. I know that the kids of Oak Noll today must still play around this old tree.
The most fun thing was the Go-Cart races that we had. All the kids would make Go-Carts out of ammunition boxes brought in from the Shell Plant. The boys did a lot of modifications on these boxes to have them road ready. Many a lawn mower suffered because of these primitive high-tech vehicles. Not a lawn mower around had wheels left on it! We would start at the top of the street at Webb Court. You had to have someone at the bottom to stop traffic, just in case you managed to get enough speed up that you made it to the Chandler St. and couldn’t stop. Craig and Lamar even built a go-cart ambulance that was a little more dangerous than the regular rides we had. It had bicycle wheels on it which did seem to make it go faster which probably wasn’t a good thing. We had a few good crashes & a few stitches but I don’t think we ever had any serious wounds. What we did have was the chance to create a lifetime of great memories and we didn’t even realize it till now. We were enjoying the fought for freedoms of America during war and we were too young to realize what was going on in the big world around us. Our world consisted of Minden.
For Christmas my cousins always got cool stuff like Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots, Electric Football, cool car race tracks, Magic Eight Ball, Mr. Snow Cone machine and always new bikes. They were pretty rough on a bicycle. Two weeks after they got a new bike their carport would look like a scene from “Orange County Choppers”. They did a lot of slight modifications, not only on their stuff, but for anyone that would let them get a hold of a bike.
Oak Noll St. also was a battle ground with more than a few fights and wars over the years. One side of the street would be mad at the other side of the street so the water balloon fights or fist fights would be furious. After a day or two they would make up and then be on guard for the next attack. With that much testosterone flowing something exciting always seemed to be happening in the neighborhood.
During the teen driving years the boys would be outside a lot working on their cars. Nobody got new cars back then; you just got something that would get you there (maybe)! My cousin Gary had a Blue ‘64 or ‘65 Mustang that I loved. During the driving-a-car years you started seeing other kids come into the neighborhood. Oak Noll seemed to be the teenage hangout for many years after that. The girl to boy ratio probably had something to do with that. Oak Noll had more boys per capita than most streets! Girls soon found that out and you soon saw more high fashion among the boys. Striped bell bottoms and double-knit pants were the rage! Roman sandals and Go-Go boots were big with the girls.
It was all a part of growing up in Minden during the 60’s & early 70’s. We all stood around whining to our mothers that we didn’t have anything to do. Now looking back these were some of the best times of my life and I got to be the girl hanging out with the “Boy’s of Summer”.