Ms. Lucy Blake served food and togetherness in Capitol cafeteria during 1950s

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

"I remember distinctly the first time Governor Earl Long came into the cafeteria in 1956," Lucy Bellows Blake told the Piney Woods Journal. "He informed me in a loud gravely voice that I needed to keep plenty of sorghum syrup and hot biscuits ready at all times because that was what he liked to eat."

"My first order of business everyday at the cafeteria was to brew up an urn of coffee and get it up to the Governor's office as soon as possible," Ms. Lucy remembered. "I had a big silver tray and a lot of china demitasse cups sent up to the Governor's office each morning. I've still got my silver tray, most of the demitasse cups and the old coffee urn," Ms. Lucy noted in pointing to the coffee urn sitting in her living room of her Baton Rouge home," Ms. Lucy, now 91, told the Journal.

"My husband and I started running the State Capitol Cafeteria in the basement of the State Capitol in 1952, the year that Governor Bob Kennon took office," Ms. Lucy commented. "Although we sent coffee up every morning to the governor's office, we didn't see Governor Kennon very often in the cafeteria. However, during the 16 years we had the cafeteria, every legislator in office during those years coming in and out of the cafeteria when they were session," Ms. Lucy noted. "It was really a mad house during sessions."

"I remember Senator Sixty Rayburn. He was loud and boisterous," Ms. Lucy recalled. :Senator Speedy Long was a small man but always dressed like a millionaire."

The cafeteria was located adjacent to the Capitol News Bureau so it was a natural for the reporters to congregate in the cafeteria in chasing news stories and interviewing legislators. \par }{\plain Prior to Ms. Lucy and her husband Clyde Bellows leasing the State Capitol Cafeteria in 1952, it had been operated by the Department of Corrections with inmate workers.

"It was a mess when we took it over, it took us a good six months to get it cleaned up," Ms Lucy noted. "Then we had to repaint it and had to buy all new tables and chairs. I remember going to New Orleans to buy the tables and chairs."

After repainting the walls, Ms Lucy began to put up pictures of the LSU tiger football players and news articles about their more famous games including the 1958 national championship season. Recently, the Southeast Community News paper in Baton Rouge did a feature article on Ms Lucy's LSU collection.

"Bud Montet, the photographer and reporter with the old Baton Rouge State Times was the one who got the LSU picture thing started," Ms Lucy acknowledged. "He gave us a collection of pictures and newspaper articles which I brought home with me after we left the cafeteria in 1968. Bud Montet was the one who go me interested in LSU sports and turned me into a huge LSU fan," Ms Lucy admitted. "I still try to do a little cheerleading with my daughter before every LSU game."

"As a young girl, I had an interesting experience in early 1935 centered around LSU," Ms. Lucy recalled. "I had just started working at Burton's restaurant on Third Street when two of my customers that were eating began a very animated conversation about LSU. One of the guys was talking about all the big things he was going to do for the LSU Band and the other guy was talking about the big things he was going to do for the LSU football team," Ms. Lucy remember. "I had no idea who they were and just thought they were talking big-shot talk. After they left, I asked the manager who the two guys were and he told me that it was Castro Caruso who was the director of the LSU Band and Senator Huey Long," Ms Lucy said. "A few weeks later I saw Huey Long again."

"I had saved up enough money to buy a new pair of shoes and I was literally running down Third Street to the old Heidelberg Hotel where my older sister worked just to show her my shoes," Ms Lucy explained. "When I ran through the lobby of the Heidelberg, I almost ran into Senator Long and fell down. He asked me, `little girl, why are you in such a hurry," Ms Lucy noted. "I was only sixteen at the time. I blurted out about saving up my money from my paycheck and coming to show my sister my new shoes. Senator Long asked me how much I made and hour and I told him, eight cents," Ms Lucy pointed out. "He didn't say anything and just strode off with his entourage in a big hurry. About a month later, all the waitresses working on Third Street in Baton Rouge got a raise in pay to 16 cents an hour," Ms Lucy stated.

Ms. Lucy is the daughter of the late James Calvin and Amy Moore Holden of Doyle which is located in Livingston Parish. Holden was a logging contractor.

"I was raised in a house on 65 acres that didn't have electricity or running water," Ms Lucy explained. "My daddy was a logger using mules and crosscut saws. He would cut trees and haul them to the Amite River where he would float them down the river to the saw mill," Ms Lucy elaborated. "We had hogs in the woods, milk cows, chickens in the yard, and a big garden. Just because I was a girl didn't mean that I didn't have to work hard around the place growing up."

Ms. Lucy was an all-star on the girls basketball team but soon left the piney woods of Livingston parish for Baton Rouge. Her older sister had already moved to Baton Rouge and started working in restaurants in downtown Baton Rouge. It was while working at the original downtown Piccadilly Restaurant that she met her husband to be, Clyde Bellow, Jr.

"Clyde worked for ESSO transporting fuel by barge on the river and inter-coastal canal," Ms. Lucy pointed out. "He kept coming into the Piccadilly until we started dating and then later got married. Clyde kept after me to make a trip with him on the tugboat. Finally, I consented but told him that I was really afraid to be in a boat on the river during a storm," Ms. Lucy recalled. "He assured me that storms were rare and they never caused any problem with the boat. The accommodations were pretty nice on the boat for passengers. We made it to Mobile where a real bad storm hit us and we had to ride out the storm in the harbor," Ms. Lucy remembered. "After several days of being in Mobile, I caught a train back to Baton Rouge."

During the years that Ms. Lucy operated the Capitol Cafeteria, she had 120 seats plus a back room for private meetings. Some of the downtown civic clubs used the cafeteria for meetings as did some of the big companies.

"We were open from 7 a.m. till 5 p.m.," Ms. Lucy said. "Most days when the legislature was in session, we would serve more than 500 cups of coffee at 5 cents a cup. You could have our best meal in the house for seventy-five cents."

"We also had the coffee shop in the Capitol annex where we served club sandwiches and such that we had made up in the cafeteria," Ms. Lucy pointed out. "As the manager, I was so busy that I didn't get to know a lot of the politicians real well. When the legislature was in session we had 32 people working for us," Ms. Lucy acknowledged. "When they were out of session, we usually dropped down to about 16 people. My husband was the public relations guy going around talking to people and making sure they liked the food," Ms. Lucy explained, "and making arrangements for the meetings in the back room. When the legislature was in session, every afternoon my husband and I would drive our truck down to the French Market in New Orleans and load up on fresh vegetables and fruits for the next day," Ms. Lucy noted. "All in all, my sixteen years in the Capitol Cafeteria was fun and exciting. You were right in the middle of where everything in Baton Rouge was going on."

"The most clear money that I ever made at the Cafeteria was from my newspaper machine," Ms. Lucy concluded. "When daily papers were five cents and Sundays was fifteen cents, I made enough profit from the paper machines to buy me a brand new Pontiac Catalina. It was a pretty car."

Ms Lucy brought her newspaper machine home with her when she left the cafeteria in 1968. It is now prominently displayed in her den.

Back