Freda Beatrice Scoggins
Clippings from the Crowley Daily Signal showing "Acadiana."
Where did 'Acadiana' come from?
Lovan Thomas / Special to The Eunice News
Freda was my stepmother.
Her full name was Freda Beatrice Scoggins.
She was of German heritage. A teacher. Strong and strict. She was a disciplinarian. So much so, that my 1956 Crowley High School graduating class, who were mostly of French decent, voted her “the meanest mom” for the yearbook.
Growing up, she would not let me slouch in my chair. I can still hear her tap the kitchen cabinet with a spoon and say, “Assume the proper posture!”
She was hard to be around sometimes but she also had a sense of humor. She loved it when someone would ask her where she was born. She would answer, “Roanoke.” Invariably they would reply, “Oh, you’re from Virginia.” She would smile and say, “No. It’s a little town between Jennings and Welsh in Jeff Davis Parish.”
Her mother and dad came from Kansas about 1890 when the government offered free farmland to anyone who would settle the low land of the Southwest Louisiana prairie. Many German families took advantage of the offer. They were instrumental in developing the rice fields in the area.
Freda graduated from Welsh high and returned to Southwestern College in Wichita, Kansas, for her undergraduate. She then returned to Louisiana and taught English at Dodd College in Shreveport, Lake Charles High and at McNeese when it opened.
Freda had a gorgeous handwriting that she learned in a cursive writing course at Welsh High School. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Freda moved to Los Angeles for graduate work in English and speech at University of Southern California. To help pay her way, she worked at Gump’s Department Store, California’s Neiman Marcus, where she handwrote personal invitations and thank you notes for movie stars and others.
Somewhere in her memorabilia there’s a thank you note from Clarke Gable for her efforts.
Dad was also a graduate of Southwestern College in Wichita. He then went to the University of Missouri where he and Doug Manship became friends in journalism school. The LSU journalism school is named for Manship. After college, Dad promoted cooking demonstrations during the depression in Chicago.
When a chance came to purchase the Carlsbad, New Mexico, newspaper, he jumped. I was born there in 1937. Shortly after, my parents separated, leaving my dad a single parent. At the start of World War II, dad joined the U.S. Army and sent me to live with his parents. Dad was too old to serve and was released.
Freda came into my life in 1943 when she and my dad married. He and Freda moved to Louisiana where they brought the Weekly Iberian in New Iberia. I joined them that summer and started the first grade in the fall. I was in the English speaking class and the Cajun-French class was across the hall.
It was not long before Freda wanted to be closer to her parents, so they sold the Iberian and bought the Crowley Daily Signal.
Those who know the cultural differences of South Louisiana know that the French-Catholic influence is from Lafayette east and the German-Protestant influence is from Jennings west to Lake Charles.
Crowley is sort of torn between the two.
My first realization of the cultural differences came early. Freda had made a large pot of gumbo to take to her parents in Welsh for the weekend. When we had dinner that evening, I filled my bowl with rice and gumbo. Great stuff.
Sunday after church, I sat down at the dining room table and was served the same gumbo. I looked over the table and asked, “Where’s the rice.” Grandpa quickly informed me that at his table we ate potato salad, not rice, in the gumbo. I said, “Yes sir.” I took a sip of Mogen David and enjoyed the potato salad in my gumbo.
After the war when things got better financially, Freda and Dad traveled through out this hemisphere. One of their favorite places to visit was Nova Scotia. Freda and the female editor of the Yarmouth newspaper became great friends and corresponded frequently. They discussed the Acadians’ move to Louisiana.
In the late 1940s Freda began writing a weekly column in the Crowley Daily Signal. Many of the columns were about her travels. Others were about her discussions of the Acadians with the Yarmouth editor.
Freda named her column in honor of the parish she lived in, Acadia, and her state, Louisiana, by combining the two words. To the name “Acadia” she added the last two letters of Louisiana “na” and coined the name “Acadiana.”
Her weekly “Acadiana” columns can be found in the early 1950s files of the Crowley Daily Signal.
When I hear Acadiana, I think of the discipline she represented. She would be proud to know that the Southwest Louisiana she loved is known for the name she coined — Acadiana.
Today, I’ve passed 80 and the old man’s slump has set in. I frequently can hear Freda tapping a spoon and reminding me to assume the proper posture. I straighten up… for a bit anyway.
Wikipedia: The word Acadiana first recorded appearance dates to the mid-1950s, when a Crowley, Louisiana, newspaper, the Crowley Daily Signal, coined the term in reference to Acadia Parish, Louisiana.
Lovan Thomas is the publisher of the Natchitoches Times.