The History of Audrey Memorial High School
By Dexter G. Harrison
In 1957 approximately 4,600 inhabitants lived in the segregated lower Cameron Parish area. “For White” only signs were posted in most Caucasian establishments and these meant exactly as they read. Cameron’s economy was based on the extraction, transmission and processing of crude oil and agriculture. African American/Colored children attended the Cameron Consolidated School. The school’s enrollment included students from Creole, Cameron and Grand Chenier. Several years prior to the building of the Cameron Consolidated School, the children attended one room schools and/or classrooms that were housed in area churches. These included two schools in Creole. The Bazile Moore School located on the Front Ridge Road in which Miss Helen Allen, Miss Myron Hayward, Miss Geneva Mouton and Miss West were four known teachers that taught there. The Hebert School located next door to the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Miss Sonobe Mack was a known teacher. Additionally, school was held at the St. James Church of God in Christ located in the District in Grand Chenier. Teachers that taught there were Miss Flowers, Miss Bernice Washington, and Miss Manilla Allen. Another school located near the St. Martin DePorres colored Cemetery also in Grand Chenier was housed in a Baptist church nevertheless the name of the church was unknown. Children in the Cameron area attended the B. Rose School.
During this time period white students attended the Creole High School. Before the establishment of the Cameron Consolidated School, African American students were not able to graduate from high school. They could only complete the 10th grade. However, when the enrollment increased, the school received its accreditation to award twelfth grade students with high school diplomas. Teachers that taught at the Cameron Consolidated School included Miss Manilla Allen, Mr. England, Miss Dorthy Kilgore, Mr. John Parker, Mr. Isaiah Pierce and Principal Mr. R. S. Guice.
Thursday morning June 27, 1957 became one of the most horrific days in the lives of the residents of the lower Cameron Parish area. The country witnessed the 5th worst destructive hurricane named Audrey. A category 4 storm claimed well over 500 victims in her aftermath. Many African Americans drowned when a 12 foot storm surge pushed 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico by 150 mph winds that annihilated the coast line; destroying just about everything in its path. Before Audrey a considerably large population of African Americans resided in the area. However the wrath of Audrey saw the population dwindle; many moved away never to return.
The actual burial of Audrey’s victims turned out to be one of the saddest days in the history of Cameron Parish. A mass burial was held at Combre Memorial Park in Lake Charles, Louisiana for all the African American/Colored victims. Hundreds of survivors gathered to pay their final respects to family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Several lengthy six foot trenches were dug out by a huge drag line while hastily built wooden coffins were lowered into the ground one by one including a majority of unidentified victims. A monument was erected with the inscription “To Cherish The Memory Of Those Beloved Heroic Unidentified Citizens Of Cameron Parish Whose Lives Were Taken By Hurricane Audrey June 27, 1957”.
Most of the residents in the area set up temporary housing in Lake Charles, Louisiana until they could recover from their misfortunes. During that time period the children attended area schools until the survivors of Audrey could move back to lower Cameron Parish and get on with their lives. To commemorate the calamity that occurred in 1957 a new school was erected for African American children to replace the Cameron Consolidated School that was completely destroyed during the storm. Impartially, the school was named Audrey Memorial High School around 1962. The mascot was the “Hurricanes” and the school colors were navy blue and gold. The administration included Principal R. S. Guice; Mr. Paul Pradia taught Science, Mrs. Wanita Harrison taught Science and Social Studies; Mr. John A. Parker taught Math, English and Physical Education; Coach Henry V. Griffin taught 7th and 8th grades and Physical Education; Mr. Richard January taught 5th and 6th grades; Mrs. Dorthy K. Moore taught 3rd and 4th grades; while Miss Manila Allen taught 1st and 2nd grades. As the years rolled forward Mrs. Mary Ellen Nash Moss became an elementary school teacher; while Mr. Charles Herrigan and Mr. A. B. Lartigue served as principals. Cafeteria custodians were Mrs. Lovenia Bartie and Mrs. Susie LaSalle; Janitor Mr. Johnny LeBlanc; bus drivers Mrs. Agnes Nash, Mrs. Goldie Washington, Mr. Raymond LeBlanc and Mr. Nelson LeBlanc.
The school motto was “Go Forward” and the Alma Mater written by Mr. Paul Pradia sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:
Oh! Audrey, dear Audrey,
How thankful, we are for thee,
Of tears and blood
That was shedded in the flood,
You are a memory.
Forever, dear Audrey
You’ll be in History
In our work and play of every day
You’ll be devotedly
Forever, dear Audrey,
Thy name will ever be
As rough and tough as the roaring gulf,
That will forever border thee.
Audrey Memorial High School stood stalwartly in Creole, Louisiana on the Front Ridge Road as a constant reminder to commemorate the unforgettable calamity the people of lower Cameron Parish overcame. Brown vs. The Board of Education empowered the lower courts to desegregate all schools in Cameron Parish. The Audrey Memorial High School students were the first to integrate the all-white South Cameron High School formally known as the Creole High School during the 1969-1970 school year; 8th thru the 12th grades comprised the initial desegregation plan; next school term 1970-1971 the elementary grades 1st thru 7th were integrated amongst the Cameron Elementary, South Cameron Elementary and Grand Chenier Elementary schools. Dear Audrey Memorial closed its doors forever in May of 1970.