Sin and Smoke: Stories of Our State

EPISODE 2   (17:32)

Scenes from Gillis Long's SGA Election campaign, LSU Gumbo, 1946.

Scenes from Gillis Long’s Student Government Association (SGA) campaign. LSU Gumbo, 1946.

Gillis Long as SGA President, LSU Gumbo, 1947.

Gillis Long as SGA President. LSU Gumbo, 1947.













Join co-hosts Rob Fleming, Blake Renfro, Chermaine Cole, and Erin Hess for Episode Two, a brief introduction to some of the Center’s varied collections, featuring clips from our University History, Americans in Vietnam, Perique Tobacco, and Michael Mulhern Centenarians series.  We’ll hear from a helicopter pilot who served in the Vietnam War, a 115 year old woman recounting slavery in Louisiana, a Perique Tobacco farmer, and a politician recalling a scandal during an LSU Student Government Association (SGA)  campaign.







W.K. BROWN is the key excerpt.  *For full transcription, see below.


Americans in Vietnam Series

MICHAEL BLAKENEY:  Heroin was more readily available and cheaper than Coca-Cola, and that is not a lie or a fabrication or an exaggeration…. I didn’t feel that drugs were one of the things that I really had to battle.  There were too many real enemies, and I had crew chiefs that I knew were heavy heroin users.  The only difference between them and other crew chiefs would be that the heroin user was probably the better man to work with on the helicopter because he would never tire.   They would just keep going on their heroin and they are off on to their little dream, and they would keep doing their thing but they were still capable of functioning, and they functioned extremely well. But because heroin was easier to disguise primarily, it became the drug of choice of the people who were escaping reality, and believe me the reality of the war in Vietnam was a reality that was well worth escaping in any way.  The military drug of acceptance was alcohol.  Everyone was encouraged to get drunk.  There were lots of bars, lots of officer club bars, enlisted club bars.  Everywhere you went there was always beer and lots of other stuff, and the army realized you had to get away from it somehow, but a lot of people didn’t want to become, or didn’t choose alcohol they chose these harder drugs as their particular escape. 

Blakeney, Michael, interview by Dudley Meier, Jr., audio recording,  1974, 4700.0937.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Perique Tobacco Series

Percy Martin and Perique Tobacco

Percy Martin and Perique Tobacco

PERCY MARTIN: See, what they call stripping they getting that ridge out of that leaf, when it’s dry.  See that ridge? When it’s dry you got to get that off and put, and tie it in a bundle. And that’s women work.  They all sit around this box here.  We put the tobacco in there and keep it covered with the right amount of moisture and the women do the stripping.

PERSEPHONE HINTLIAN: Why is that women’s work?

CAROL ANN MARTIN GAUTREAU: [Percy’s daughter] It’s a sit down job I guess.

MARTIN:  I don’t use any of the tobacco at all. I smoked one Perique tobacco cigar, we roll our self, me and my cousin Johnny, and when I was young, I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. We couldn’t smoke that in front of our parents or the neighbors parents but we used to go to Catechism with a horse and a gig you know.  At that time that was the only transportation we had.  So we had our cigar made and after Catechism, we smoke our cigar when we were coming back home with the gig, of course we took our time.  By the time we got home, I was sick and then I fall off the gig, and pass out, they all come run outside they thought the horse had kicked me or something you know and when they smelled my breath they knew what it was, and I never did smoke nothing since then. [laughs]

HINTLIAN:  I was wondering if you had any thoughts on about how Perique got its name?

MARTIN:  Well the only story that I know of it was the Indians that really started with the tobacco . . . And they said, Pere Perique that was his name and he got the formula and the seed from the Indians and as the white settler settled back here they continued using the same seed from the Indian and that’s where they picked up the name of Perique from this old man.  So they call it Perique from him.  I heard that story from my grandpa and all the old folks.

In the old days.  Whenever I started working with my daddy we had no tractor, it was all mule labor.  All mules, everything was mules and then in 1936 that’s when I told dad I said, “I’m not going to stay on the farm, not with them damn mules.”  That’s when I bought that little tractor. And the type of work that little tractor used to do compared to the mules and all that it was no comparison.  And our crops start developing in better crop and better crop. 

HINTLIAN:  I know you said it wasn’t any comparison between the two but how much more work could you get done with a tractor compared to the . . .?

MARTIN: Well I tell you, you’re not used to it but in mules . . . You got to make one or two rounds and then give them a blow in other words.  And that tractor don’t take no blow, that tractor keep on going whether it’s hot, cold or what. That’s why I call the tractor revolutionized the farming industry completely.

BARBARA ANN MARTIN YAMBRA:  [Percy’s daughter]  If you come here and dry tobacco and then work the dried tobacco, talk about a high.  It makes some people sick.  They how do you call it, hallucinate?  When you’re sleeping at night they have real, real vivid dreams.

MARTIN: If you’re working all day and you breathe that fume that’s coming out of the other tobacco, you know, and it really gets to you at night.  Make you dream all night.

Martin, Percy, interview by Persephone Hintlian, audio recording, 2000, 4700.1365.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


W.K. Brown

W.K. Brown

 University History Series

* GARY HUEY:  [SGA Presidential] opposition had hired a stripper from New Orleans and somebody threw her in the lake or what was . . . ?

W.K. BROWN:  Yes. She come up there to campaign.  She was from New Orleans. She came up there to campaign for Gillis’ opponent. And I think she was told not to come. That she might run into trouble, but she had come anyway.  I don’t know if it was her own influence or Gillis’ opposition influence, but she come there and she started to make a speech out there on the mound in front of the Field House.   A bunch of . . .  I don’t know whether just friends of Gillis or backing Gillis or . . .  They turned a truck over, jumped up on the truck, beat up the band, and four or five or six people in the band grabbed her and throwed her in the lake.   Then had the campus police there and they carried her down to the stadium there, where they sell tickets in those little booths, and they finally put her in that booth and, I believe, they got a state police car or something there to get her . . . Got her in the state police car and got away from there. . . . When that was going on, that must of been five hundred to a thousand students. 

Brown, W.K. interview by Gary Huey, audio recording 1986, 4700.1175.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Michael Mulhern Centenarians Series

MICHAEL MULHERN: Your master, what was his name?

POLLY MASON: Henry Boyce.

MULHERN:  What did he do?  Was he a farmer?

MASON:  He wasn’t no farmer but he used to run a farm. Yeah.

MULHERN:  He used to run a farm.

MASON:  He used to have people to work, you know?  He was the boss  man.

MULHERN:  Did he make a lot of money?

MASON:  I couldn’t tell you that. [laughs]

MULHERN:  No? [laughs]

MASON:  I know he made more money than I made [Mulhern laughs] ‘cause he was the boss man.

MULHERN:  What duties did you perform on Mr. Boyce’s plantation?

MASON:  I used to cook and clean up dishes.

MULHERN:  Were you ever mistreated on the plantation?



MASON:  I wouldn’t let nobody mistreat me.  I didn’t let nobody mistreat me.  If they mistreat me I wouldn’t work for  them.

MULHERN:  Uh-huh.

MASON:  That’s the way I does.


MASON:  I didn’t work in no field.

MULHERN:   No, she said she didn’t work in any field.

UNKNOWN:  No, she worked in the house.

MASON:  I worked for the white folks.

MULHERN:   . . . and you walked in the . . . you worked in the house on the job. What do you think caused the Civil War, Polly?

MASON:  Sin . . .


MASON:   . . . was the cause of the war!

MULHERN:  Sin was the cause of the war?

MASON:  That’s right, that’s right.  You starving us to death down here!

MULHERN:  Do you remember the assassination Abraham Lincoln?  When President Lincoln  got shot?  Do you remember hearing about that?

MASON:  A good president got shot.

MULHERN:  He was a good president.

MASON:  He was a good one.

MULHERN:  It’s too bad he got shot.

Mason, Polly, interview by Michael Mulhern, audio recording, 1971.  4700.0041.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.




Scenes from Gillis Long’s Student Government Association (SGA) election campaign, LSU Gumbo, 1947.

Gillis Long as SGA President, LSU Gumbo, 1948.

Percy Martin and Perique Tobacco, photograph by Persephone Hintlian, 2000.

W.K. Brown, LSU Gumbo, 1948.



King, Freddie, interview by Tatiana Clay and Eric Julien, audio recording, 2008, 4700.1921.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


This podcast is copyrighted by LSU Libraries Special Collections.

For a full transcript of the podcast, please contact Jennifer Abraham at


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