Cozy Theater and Me

Written by Juanita Agan   
Wednesday, 20 August 2008 - Minden Press-Herald

I have had several inquiries about the Cozy Theater that was located behind the stores on back street.  Some never knew of its existence.  One lady remembered that blacks were allowed to buy tickets to the balcony at the Rex Theater, but she never knew there was a black theater.

Perhaps I would not have known about it if I had not worked at Andress Motors Company from November 1940 until the fifties. Mr. Leon Adkins was an officer in the company at Andress and he was also a Baptist Deacon.  

He designed the racks for the back of the seats that would hold a Bible and a Hymnal after the old seats from the Cozy were moved to First Baptist.

He enlisted the help of several men who took pliers and bent the long steel rods into the shape to hold books and also made the tiny circles to hold the screws that fastened them to the back of the opera seats.

Others may not have known about the fish market and fish cafe that was also back of the stores on back street.  It was operated by the Aarons family.  Each Friday and Saturday night was the time I think it was open.  The Aarons were white people but they only catered the cafe  for black customers.  Later Jodie Faye Aarons worked as a clerk in the office where I was the bookkeeper.  She was such a lovely person, efficient, and friendly to all our customers.

She said after the cafe closed each night they gathered up the whiskey bottles and there would be several bushel baskets full of empty beer and whiskey bottles. As you know, Minden was “dry” so the liquor was bought elsewhere and brought in to have with the fish.

The Aaron family had several beautiful daughters, and at least one son who was very handsome.  They were members of the First Baptist Church.

I have had several inquiries about the lady who prepares the hot tamales I now buy.  Her name is Jo Ann Edwards, and she is a niece of Jim Lyons.  Her address is 911 Sibley Road, Minden, La. 71055.  They are so good.  I buy five or six dozen at a time and keep them in my freezer.  Dr. Christine Hunt told me about her and I am so glad to find that they are the same good tamales that Jim made.

Several of my friends remember following the ice truck out the Homer Road and eating the chips of ice that fell as they delivered ice to homes.   I never did that because by the time I was thirteen I was working downtown every chance I got, and certainly on Saturdays. So most of my friends went to the Saturday cowboy movies that were serials from one week to the next.  I never saw a one since I was so pleased to get to work on Saturdays.

In the thirties we had no refrigerator so we cooked meat the day it was bought, which was very infrequently.  One cold November day pork chops were on for a nickel each.  

My mother bought two for us and put them in the window between the screen and the glass.  About midnight we heard somebody tearing the screen off the window.  Mother and I were scared to death.  We had no defense, and no one to come to our rescue if we had a telephone, which we did not have.  

Mother armed herself with a broom and prepared to defend our honor the best way she could.   She pulled the curtain back and there was a big black tomcat trying to get the screen off and trying to get our pork chops.  Mother happily opened the door, bounded around the corner and flattened that cat, and he flew away as fast as his legs would take him.  He decided his life was worth more than a pork chop.  We were so happy, not only was our honor protected, but we still had pork chops for Sunday dinner.

After the tornado of 1933 and the bad storm we experienced that same year where we lived, we were scared of every storm that came.  We had no way of knowing if it would be an ordinary thunderstorm, or if it would be another cyclone.  
So consequently I learned a lot about where storm pits were.  We never asked permission since most folks slept on and did not go to the storm pits but we did.  Many nights I slept in a storm pit before going to school the next day.
My Junior and Senior years of high school were lived on the corner of Lewisvile and Beck streets.  Many times a girl who lived further out on Lewisville would come to my home and say: “Juanita, I don’t understand participles, or gerunds or some other grammar term and would you help me?”  

I would work for an hour or more until she understood the grammar lesson.  The next day at school she played like she did not even see me, as she looked through me and around me, never speaking.  It hurt!!   Her father came to my mother and apologized for his daughter. He told Mother that he passed me up in terrible rain storms as I plodded home without a raincoat, nor galoshes, or even an umbrella, just dripping wet, cold, and miserable.  

He said his daughter refused to allow him to stop and pick me up since I lived closer to school than she did.  He told Mother what a fine daughter she had reared, but his was not the same good girl I was, and he said he was   ashamed and sorry.  

It helped but I still hurt. Later she came to get me to teach her how to write a story.  It took several trips before I got done with that but she still refused to speak to me at school.  

She changed before she died and tried to make amends, and I treated her as good as any friend.  By then God had allowed so many blessings my way that I did not feel the slight she had used on me, and truthfully I forgot the sadness of yesterday.  She died about ten years ago, but I am the only one she called to tell goodbye. God works things out if we let Him.

These are just little glimpses of my life and of things you might not have known about.

If I got too personal, forgive me but I am 85 and I forget, but you still love me, don’t you?

Juanita Agan has lived in Minden since 1935. Her column appears Wednesdays in the Minden Press-Herald. She may be reached at 377-2050.