Where We Live: History of Opelousas Neighborhoods

The faces of Opelousas.jpg
Posted at 3:30 AM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 04:41:02-04

Sometimes you just have to stop and listen.

"My yard is the gathering place," Darlene Fruge said. "They call it the park. I'll come home sometimes and somebody is sitting here. They'll tell me that they didn't mess with anything that they're just resting."

Every road that winds through a neighborhood is not just a path to home, it tells a story.

"We have a lot of history in this neighborhood. Some of the history starts right here on this street here."

Eugene Mitchell used to walk up and down North Market Street day in and day out.

He would meet friends at the park just down the road and get candy from the store that used to stand across the street from his home.

Over on the corner, Mitchell showed us where a daycare used to stand.

"That was one of our first daycare centers in this area for our kids. They would be babysit for our parents that were working and stuff. She was also the first black female that served on the St. Landry parish School Board here."

The "Carlton" areas has changed over time. Mitchell said he will always have the memories of what was and what it could be again.

"We had a nice neighborhood," Mitchell said. "We had a lot of older people who are no longer with us that taught us the ways and how to live and stuff like that.

Is that what you hope for the younger generation?" I asked.

"Right, to get with us so we can teach them the way we were taught," Mitchell said.

About two miles up the road is where Mrs. Gallia Batiste and Mr. Laron Offord live.

They were sitting in Mrs. Batiste's driveway--something they have done for over 40 years.

"People came from all over to eat and enjoy with us," Batiste said. "They showed the people how to get together and make it in this neighborhood."

Batiste said she will never leave the "Bishop" area.

Those words were echoed in the middle of the city known as the "Trashpile."

Mrs. Darlene Fruge said, when she got married she did not move far from her parents home.

She and her husband bought a home just a few houses down.

"Everybody is related," Fruge said. "Everyone in this neighborhood is related."

"What is that like?" I asked.

"It's a special feeling," Fruge said. It's a warm feeling."

A lot has changed since Etha Simien Amling was a young child living in the "Garland" area of Opelousas.

"I loved picking pecans in this area," Amling said. "It was basically pecan trees everywhere. Neighborhood kids would get together and come out and pick pecans. Little did we know that we would buy a house in the subdivisions years later."

Amling always wanted to see the world. She met and married her husband and they lived in Germany for a decade. While Amling loved it, she said something was missing and that was home.

"I grew up in Berlin and's quite different there," Juergen Amling said. "It's a big city to going to a small town and small subdivision. I like it. It's a quiet, except for the hammering sometimes, it's nice."

Now, 40 years later, they are still in the same home off of Crouchet Drive.

While faces have changed the memories remain the same.

Those memories are what kept Patrick Fontenot in "Brickyard."

He lives in the same home he grew up in and on land that his family has owned for generations.

"This neighborhood was family oriented with good people," Fontenot said. "Some were not well educated but they had a lot of wisdom and pride. As a young man my family owned a grocery store and I got to deliver groceries into 80 percent of the homes."

While Fontenot admitted that some changes in Brickyard have not been positive, he has hope, one day, they can be back to way things were.

"The neighborhood created us and now it's kinda of hopeless," Fontenot said. "We are going to energize it so it can come back to be what I grew up in."

That sentiment echoed by John Raymond Washington who lives in "The Hill."

"We can do better," Washington said. "We can come together and make things better. I want people to see the good. I don't want them to say, 'Jefferson Street is like the hood or something. That people don't care.' That's an outward appearance, you don't know what is going on on the inside...what people have in their heart and minds of what they want to do."

Whether it is Garland, Brickyard, the Hill, Trashpile, or Bishop every neighborhood has a story to tell--you just have to stop long enough to listen.