Jul 4, 2010 3:36 PM by Chris Welty
NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - Although Mount Carmel Academy shut its
doors in 1988, the events that transpired within the walls of the
more than 100-year-old school remain vivid memories of the
graduating class of 1960, or "the class of the rich and famous"
as they were dubbed by students who graduated afterward.
Robbie David of New Iberia described the class of 1960, which
celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, as a "rare breed" of
girls who were "close-knit" then and now.
"We have a former-governor (Kathleen Blanco), one who owned an
elevator company (Jane Myers), a nun (Sister Catherine Riggs), an
owner of a funeral home (Caroline Pellerin) and many who became
teachers, nurses and secretaries," David said.
"We're always finding reasons to get together," she said.
"Once a year for the past 10 years, we have a sleep-over, but each
year, it seems we go to bed earlier and earlier."
Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said one of her favorite
memories was producing and staging plays with the other girls in
"We'd write the whole production and then call the whole school
in to watch," she said.
Sister Catherine Riggs, who entered the convent in New Orleans
immediately after graduating in September 1960, said she remembers
hearing the prisoners, who were housed directly across the Bayou
Teche where Bouligny Plaza now sits, singing and crying out from
their cells in the evening.
A favorite memory of Riggs and a number of her classmates were
the stories of the pirate Jean Lafitte's connection to the school.
Legend has it, Riggs said, Lafitte was the boyfriend of Emily
Duperier, whose family owned and lived in the building before it
was purchased by the sisters and made into a school in 1870.
Riggs said she and her fellow students would attempt to sneak up
to where the nuns slept to catch a glimpse of a window where
Duperier had carved Lafitte's name with an engagement ring he had
"I had always heard about a tunnel in the principal's office
... and when the school was closing in 1988, I got to see it,"
Riggs said. "It was full of cobwebs, but I got to take a brick
back home with me."
Classmate Jane Myers, who now lives in Broussard, told another
tale of Lafitte's connection to the school, and said it was always
rumored the pirate had hidden buried treasure near an oak tree
somewhere on the campus.
"They've never been able to find it," she said. "We did used
to talk about digging for it though."
Pattie Kuebler, who now lives in Bowling Green, Ky., said the
carving of Lafitte's name into the window gave rise to speculation
his treasure was hidden somewhere in or under the building.
"We swore he had treasure under the kitchen," Kuebler said.
Myers also recalled the ever-watchful eyes of the sisters who
ran the school.
"The nuns never wanted you to have one boyfriend," Myers said.
"If you went to two different dances with the same boy in the same
year, they said you were going steady and you could no longer be in
any school clubs."
Dot Labiche, who lives in New Iberia, said the nuns kept a close
watch on the length of the brown skirts worn by the girls at the
school. To ensure skirts were worn at the proper length, she said
they were required to kneel down so the nuns could use a ruler and
measure the length of the skirt from the knee.
"The nuns didn't want you wearing your skirts too short, but
we'd just roll up the waist band and make them as short as we
wanted," Labiche said, adding, "girls will be girls."
When class rings were handed out on the last day of their senior
year, Labiche said, "They blessed the rings in chapel and said we
had the rest of the day off.
"We all went to Veazey's Drive-in wearing our brown skirts,
white blouses and saddle oxford shoes and ordered cokes and ice
cream," she said. "And someone called the convent and said those
girls need to be in school, not at a drive in.' The principal said
we could stay. We were all looked after and very sheltered. When we
all left for college and separated ways, we all saw how protected
and sheltered we were and wished our children could grow up like we
Betty LaSalle of New Iberia recited a line from the school's
song, "O we love the halls of Carmel that surround us everyday and
may we not forget even when we are far, far away."
"It fits us," she said, "because now we're from everywhere
but still close."