By Joe Taylor
People of a certain age may recognize the attached picture. It is a rare photo of a small unassuming building that served for over forty years as city hall for the little town of Coushatta. Called by natives “the Calaboose”, which Google tells me is an old English word for a small jail. Why it got that name is a mystery to me. I’m told that the old jail in the old town on the river was also called the calaboose and maybe the name was transferred when the new building was built in the early twenties, as the town moved toward the railroad.
There certainly was a jail as part of the building. If you study the picture you’ll notice two small windows at the bottom. Those were the windows to, as I remember, two jail cells that looked ominous to a curious kid as he explored the town. The upper part of the building served as the city hall and is where the town clerk conducted the everyday business of the town and where the town council held its scheduled meetings.
To me the little building is an example of how simple times were then and how much modern government has grown.
In years past when visiting a large city such as Chicago, I have been asked what was it like to be raised in a tiny town like Coushatta. I always answered it was like Mayberry. You had one city marshal for the town. Often he carried no weapon. Houses were never locked, you didn’t even know where the old skeleton key was, and the car keys were always left in the car. As a kid you had the run of the town. Days often might include a pick up game of baseball or basketball with the neighbors. Parents really didn’t know where you where at all times, but knew that everyone knew who you were and who you belonged to, and a call would be placed if needed.
I grew up in a time when the parents had survived a Great Depression and a terrible world war. They were glad to be alive and wanted to enjoy life and make the world better for their kids. I realize now in my old age that growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was one of best times in our country’s history and I was lucky to be a part of it.
Next month in our history article: We’ve all heard of the Hatfield and McCoy feud, but we never had a feud like that in Red River, did we? Yes we did! And next time I’ll tell the story of the Brown and Freeman feud that left four dead.