10 More Things You Should Know About Central, Especially if You Live Here!

Do you live, go to school, or work in Central?  Do you have family here? Are you thinking of starting a business in Central?  Or do you just want to understand more about the City of Central and its 28,000 people?

Last year, the Central City News’ 13th City of Central Anniversary Edition, published, “50 Things You Should Know About Central!” But there’s more to know! So here 

are “10 More Things You Should Know About Central!”


What is the most important thing to know when speaking to someone from Central?

That’s simple! 

Don’t say anything bad about anyone from Central to anyone from Central! They are probably related!


Has a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman from Central ever been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor?

Yes, there was one! On Wednesday night, Jan. 24, 1945, more than 700 Central residents gathered at the high school gym to pay tribute to Homer Wise, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Homer Wise grew up in Central and attended Central School.  During World War II, he became one of America’s most decorated heroes, receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor and many other awards.  The citation on the Medal of Honor says, 

“Magliano, Italy, in the summer of 1944 was the scene of intensive resistance by well-trained and experienced German soldiers. Fierce machine gun fire hit the 142nd Infantry Regiment. The day was hot and artillery fire had set the dry grass ablaze. In the heat of the battle, Staff Sergeant Homer L. Wise, squad leader of Company L, performed heroically with amazing agility and initiative. While his platoon was pinned down by intensive fire, he and three others went into the fire-swept area to bring a wounded buddy to safety. 

When a German officer and two men challenged him, he killed all three. Later he obtained and fired a rifle grenade launcher upon enemy positions causing them to flee. He obtained a Browning Automatic Weapon, and neutralized the frontal fire, allowing his men to move forward. He boldly climbed on a tank, remedied a stoppage in the turret machine gun and fired 750 rounds into the enemy’s positions, inflicting numerous casualties, neutralizing their fire, and allowing the battalion to continue…”

During the war, Homer met and later married Madolyn DiSesa of Stamford, Connecticut.  After the war, Homer and Madolyn lived in Stamford and had one child, a son Jeffrey.  Homer made a career of the Army and retired to Stamford.  He passed away in 1974.  Jeffrey died in 1990, and Madolyn died in 2003.  Homer Wise was one of six honorary pallbearers selected by President Eisenhower for the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington.

The Central community turned out in great numbers on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 24, 1945, to honor Homer Wise.

In 2010, the late Preston Morgan, then 81, remembered the event clearly.  He was 16 at the time.  His mother, Alma C. “Ag” Morgan took the lead in organizing the event.  He told the Central City News, “She just felt something should be done to honor Homer Wise.”

As Preston remembered it, “The old gym was full and decorated with patriotic symbols.  Everyone stood as Homer Wise walked down the aisle. There were speakers honoring him, and we sang patriotic songs.  It made quite an impression on a young man.”  Just 16 months later, Preston himself was in the U.S. Army.

The late Iris Walker was the same age as Preston Morgan and in 2010 remembered the gym being packed, standing room only. “It was quite a thing to see.  It’s like a dream now.”

On Jan. 24, 2010, the Central City News invited everyone who was there on the evening of Jan. 24, 1945 to come and reminisce and stand for a photograph in front of the old gym, then at Hooper at Sullivan.  World War II veterans were also invited to come.

City Unveils Plaque

Honoring Homer Wise,

Medal of Honor Winner

June 1, 2013

From The Stamford Advocate

By Olivia Just

STAMFORD, CT – The story of Staff Sgt. Homer L. Wise of Central, Louisiana, is the tale of so many of America’s veterans, men and women who fought on foreign soil and returned home to start a family and a new life in the suburbs.

Along the way, these veterans rarely, if ever, spoke a word of what they saw or did in action.

But Wise’s story has a further coda, one that began with his designation as a World War II Medal of Honor recipient by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended Sunday following the city’s annual Memorial Day parade.

The parade, which wound down Summer and Main streets, ended its run at Veterans Park in Stamford, where a ceremony was held to unveil a plaque at the base of a 6 ½-foot statue of Wise that has stood in the park since December.

The unveiling marked the culmination of a five-year fund raising effort led by Wise’s old friend and veteran, James Vlasto.

Vlasto was joined in speaking at the event by Rabbi Phillip Schechter, Mayor Michael Pavia, Morton Dean, the former CBS and ABC news anchor, and Paul Bucha, a recipient of the Medal of Honor in 1968 for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Vlasto, Bucha and Jean Rinaldi, Wise’s niece, lifted the cloth from the plaque bearing Wise’s accomplishments as they were serenaded by the Stamford High School Madrigal Singers.

“This is a very historic day for Stamford,” Vlasto said. “They’ve never honored a Medal of Honor recipient. He’s Stamford’s only Medal of Honor recipient. When he came back a hero, he came back to Stamford.” 

The fact that Wise survived the war was no small accomplishment, Vlasto said, noting that the lifespan for an American soldier in combat during World War II was 14 days.

On a hot day in June 1944 in Magliano, Italy, Wise ran through German gunfire to pull a wounded soldier to safety.

Then he single-handedly held off enemy gunners with a grenade launcher, along with peppering the retreating Germans with fire from a submachine gun and firing 750 rounds from an American tank in order to allow his men to advance.

Roosevelt’s citation called Wise’s actions “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity.” Wise was also awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

After the war, Wise, a handsome, blue-eyed man from Central, Louisiana, came to Stamford to marry Madolyn DiSesa, whom he had met at Cape Cod during the war.

The couple had one son, Jeff, who died in 1990, and only learned about his father’s medals at the age of 12 through a friend at school.

Wise was by most accounts a quiet, unassuming man, who returned to the army as a recruiter and then worked in a civilian capacity as a mail supervisor in a bank. He also waited tables for extra money. Wise died in 1974 of congestive heart failure at the age of 57.

Joe Rumore, Wise’s nephew, speculated that Wise might have been a little lost for words had he been able to see the statue’s dedication or the large crowd that attended the event.

“I think it’s beautiful, it’s a fantastic commemoration,” Rumore said. “I got all choked up. He’d be very proud of the presentation, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have much to say about it because he was a very private man. He didn’t talk at all about his heroics.”

Bucha, who spoke eloquently and emotionally, noted that the Medal of Honor is given to an individual, but it also represents the unsung actions of others, and the collective experience of the recipient’s comrades.

After the ceremony ended and the crowd dispersed, Stamford resident Betty Hardiman was one of those who lingered for a moment.

She said the ceremony brought back memories of her grandson, U.S. Navy SEAL Brian Bill, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

“Everything was just terrific,” Hardiman said of Wise’s commemoration. “What a moving speech.”

The News with Oren Muse

Broadcast Live on WJBO Radio

12:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25, 1945

(Script provided by Preston Morgan)

OREN MUSE:  Did you ever meet a hero?  It’s quite an experience.  Quite.  In this case, he’s just a plain American guy.  A kid you used to know if you lived in the Central community.  A little kid who didn’t have it too easy then.  Perhaps doesn’t have it too easy now.  But a good kid and a hero.

We are speaking of Sgt. Homer Wise.  Well, last night Sgt. Homer Wise actually arrived at home.  At long last.  Actually.  For he was on the stage at the Central High School — and all the folks he used to know, a lot of children who had just heard about him, and a lot of others were out last night to wish him well.

The Central school auditorium, which is also used for basketball games, was filled to overflowing with adults and children.  There were those, for instance, who used to go to school with him.  Billie Smith—fair, modest Billie Smith, whose husband, Teddie, is fighting in Belgium, and who had sent the original story from Stars and Stripes that got all the celebration started.  There was Mrs. Joe Sanders—an attractive young woman—who held the cutest youngster you have seen on her lap.  Her own.  He was in red corduroy slacks and while the ceremonies to honor the hero were going on, the baby calmly took his bottle.  Her husband, Cpl. Joe Sanders, is in Belgium and has never seen the baby.  And what a wonderful surprise he is going to get.  And then, there was West Carpenter, a former U.S. Marine who used to go to school with Homer Wise.  And there was Mrs. T.J. Cobb—who took our favorite six-year-old for the duration of the program—took him over because she likes boys, and her own baby is no longer a baby.  He is a sailor, bless him, sailor on Guadalcanal.  His name is Edwin Cobb and like us, Mrs. Cobb showed the latest pictures of her baby to her friends and that little tow-head with us.  There was Miss Hollie Smith who taught him in the first grade.

And there was Mrs. Alma C. Morgan.  Proud as punch.  This member of the Central PTA—who sometimes teaches at the Central School—was the moving spirit behind last night’s program.  She got it up.  And when the band started playing — playing those songs that took us back years and years—and when the program moved like clock-work.  Well.  She was pretty pleased.

Incidentally, she picked out the handsome gold identification bracelet, and the bill fold—which contained folding money—which was presented to him by the principal, J.A. Smith.  And, what is more, she collected the money for all of this.

As we said at the beginning—did you ever meet a hero?  Well, when we met him yesterday afternoon, he looked just like the good kid he is.  When he talked about his girl—Madolyn DiSesa—of Stamford, Conn. who incidentally will pretty soon be the “Mrs.,” he was just like any young man talking about his girl.  Incidentally, he has been negligent about letters—just like our favorite soldier and she got so worried up in Stamford, Conn. that yesterday she called us here at the paper, to find out if he was all right.  

Well, as we said, yesterday afternoon he looked like a guy in uniform.  But last night—last night when he walked in with the guard of honor from Nicholson Post of the American Legion here—he was every inch a soldier, every inch a hero.  And when he stood to receive the plaudits of the crowd, when he stood at attention as the Star Spangled Banner was played—his face was so strong, so etched in strength—that he reminded you of some of the great men of other years.  As Mrs. Morgan said, “He looks something like Abe Lincoln.”

Last night’s celebration was the first held for this returned warrior—a fighter who was something of a one-man army, himself.  And though he will be honored tonight—honored at The Patio by local labor groups with city, parish, and state officials—we are sure there will never be a more important program than that given last night by his own people—his own people of the Central Community—where he got his meagre schooling, through the seventh grade.

The children—the school children—from the little tots like our favorite—to the older ones who sang so beautifully some of our favorite songs, were agog at last night’s performance.  They all crowded around Homer Wise to shake his hand, to ask his autograph.  We wish that you could have seen it!

If there were any there whose eyes were not wet when it was all over — any body, certainly, who has someone in the war—well, we don’t know their names.  That program last night to honor Homer Wise—who, in turn, asked a silent prayer for the men overseas—would have taken you right to the front lines.  Take our word for it.  It did us and some 700 others.


Has Central ever elected a member of the United States Congress?

Yes, Richard Baker of Central was elected to the United States Congress from the 6th Congressional District of Louisiana in 1986, replacing Congressman Henson Moore who gave up his seat to run for the United States Senate.

Richard Baker began his political career with his election in 1971 to represent Baker and Central in the Louisiana House of Representatives. His father was pastor of Blackwater Methodist Church. At the time of his election, he was 23 and the youngest member of the legislature. 

He distinguished himself by his conservative voting record and his expertise in highways and transportation, which sprang from his desire to improve roads and bridges in his district. He championed the Highway Priority Program to take politics out of highway construction. He was soon named Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. 

In the United States Congress, Baker was appointed to the House Financial Services Committee and rose to Chairman of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets. He resigned from the House in 2008 to become President of the Managed Fund Association in Washington.

He announced that he will retire from the Managed Fund Association at the end of 2019. He and his wife Kay reside in Baton Rouge.

— 4—

What is the most historic place in Central?

Probably where Greenwell Springs Road crosses the Comite River.  It is at this crossing that:

•The Spanish government operated a trading post that was the last stop on the Camino Real, the Royal Road from Mexico City to the Comite River in Spanish West Florida.

•Yankee Colonel Benjamin Grierson ended Grierson’s Raid, a massive calvary raid of 1,000 Union soldiers at this crossing. Grierson cut a path of destruction from Tennessee through Mississippi to the banks of the Comite.

•Confederate soldiers rested there on the morning they launched the Battle of Baton Rouge on August 4, 1862.

•Russell Starns, the founder of Central, resides at that crossing on the banks of the Comite.

•Many Central residents who commute to Baton Rouge often say as they return home to Central in the evening that when they cross the Comite they have entered their sanctuary.

— 5 —

Is it true the U.S. Army Air Corps suffered more downed aircraft in the Central area during World War II than were lost fighting in many countries in Europe?

Yes, it’s true! Baton Rouge Metro Airport (then Harding Field) was a major training facility for young officers learning to be pilots. Their flight patterns usually took them over Central, and Central historian Dr. Jessie Fairchild estimated that more than 500 of them went down or crashed in Central!  Many young ladies in Central were surprised and delighted when scuffed up young pilots landed in a field nearby and then walked up to the house to ask for a ride back to Harding Field!

During the course of the war, more than 150,000 pilots and other personnel were trained or stationed at Harding Field, and the daily population ranged from 10,000 to 15,000.

Regrettably, at least 47 pilots or their crewmen died in crashes in and around Harding Field.

The airbase was a boon to Baton Rouge businesses, which enjoyed a flood of airmen visiting their establishments in their free time. Many romances flourished, and a few of the airmen returned after the war.

For more on Harding Field, read Harding Field: Baton Rouge’s Army Airbase During World War II by Randy Holden. Photos from Harding Field.

— 6 —

What President has visited Central?

President Donald Trump visited Central when he was a candidate for President immediately after the historic flood of August 2016. He greeted disaster relief workers at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church and flood victims.

In 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigned in Central and spoke at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. He ate at David’s Mobil in Central.

Santorum won Louisiana’s Presidential Primary in March 2012 with 49 percent of the vote, leading eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 22 percent.

— 7 —

What was the Teacherage?

In the first half of the 20th century, Central was still a rather remote location with little in the way of affordable rental property.  In addition, pay was low for public school teachers. As a result, it was difficult to recruit teachers for Central schools.  Simply put, little housing was available, and what was available, teachers could not afford.

The solution was the Teacherage, which was in effect a dormitory for teachers from outside Central. At the time, Central High School was located at the corner of Hooper and Sullivan roads. The Teacherage was across Sullivan Road, where the veterans memorial is now located.

— 8 —

Who needed to be dipped?

Cattle! Texas tick fever threatened Louisiana cattle, and strict rules were adopted by the Louisiana State Board of Agriculture and Immigration under Gov. Murphy Foster. In a bulletin published in 1899, the board said Texas tick fever has prevented the importation of cattle from Northern states and the sale of Southern cattle in Northern states.

Dipping vats were established, and all cattle had to be dipped in a solution to kill the ticks. Central 

was conveniently served by the Graham dipping vat by Magnolia Bridge and the Morgan dipping vat on Greenwell Springs Road across from Monterey.

9 —

What was the most popular resort in Central?

“On the banks of the Comite a short distance from Baton Rouge is located a pleasure resort equipped and furnished to meet the requirements of the most critical or exacting amusement seeker.

We refer to Riverside Park to which a representative of Woman’s Enterprise recently paid a visit to be delightfully surprised at the magnitude of the undertaking.The Park was found to be planned and constructed upon a magnificent scale embracing the very latest and best ideas of what a pleasure resort should be.

— Woman’s Enterprise, 1922

Hardly a man or woman is still alive who can remember a wonderful resort that existed here in the 1920’s on the banks of the Comite River near Hooper Road.

It was called Riverside Park.  A feature story in the September 1922 edition of the Woman’s Enterprise, a Baton Rouge newspaper at the time, heralded the beautiful beaches, clear river, “sylan retreats,” restaurant, bathhouse facilities, and the 3,600-square-foot Dance Pavillion, which was cooled with “an air typhoon cooling system” that was driven by an eight-horsepower engine that delivered “11,000 cubic feet of cool air every minute.”  

Wow, on these hot days in 2011, we’d all like to experience that!

An ad in the same issue of the Woman’s Enterprise invited Baton Rougeans to “Riverside Park on the Breezy Comite, Take Plank Road to Howell’s Store, then Hooper Road.”

The ad promoted “Dances every Sunday night from 8 to 12 p.m.” with “Music by One of the Best Jazz Orchestras in the State.”

The ad warned, “Objectionable Characters Barred”!  Mr. T. H. Daigre was listed as the proprietor.

In 2011, Charlie Carmena, who was 89 and had lived his entire life on Blackwater Road and Comite Drive, remembered at age three passing by the park with his dad on the way to Baton Rouge.

“I begged him to stop but I don’t think he ever did.  A lot of people in our area didn’t approve of the park because of the dancing,” he said.  Mr. Carmena said the park was located on the south side of Hooper Road on the west side of the Comite River.

Ms. Ned Carpenter, 91 in 2011, grew up just north of the park but said, “My daddy wouldn’t let us go there.” However, Mr. Walter Bliss, who was 92 in 2011,grew up on Hooper Road, remembered the Riverside Park clearly.  He said in those days Hooper Road was a bit farther south from where it is now and followed what is now called South Blackwater Road.  Riverside Park was about 100 yards south of Hooper, which was a gravel road, he said.

“It was a nice park with a café to eat in and also a dance hall.  They were owned by different people.  Lots of people would come from Baton Rouge.  There was a sand bar in front of the cafe, and there was entertainment on the sand bar, including a water slide.”

“When the Comite would flood, the cafe would be damaged or destroyed, and they would have to rebuild.  Finally, the owner of the cafe gave up because of the cost. But the dance pavillion continued in operation.  Some of the neighbors were set against it, especially when the café closed.  We were never allowed to go back after that,” he said.

After the Riverside Park closed, Mr. Bliss said people continued to come to the site to swim. “There was no swimming in Baton Rouge, and this was the best place to come.” “Every weekend, there were lines of cars parked up and down Blackwater Road as people came to picnic and swim,” he said. On Labor Day 1922 — 89 years ago — Morris’ Rough Riders performed in the Dance Pavillion at Riverside Park, according to the ad.

It’s a shame that more of us don’t take time to enjoy the beautiful Comite River.  A nice beach is available at the Blackwater Conservation Park on Hooper Road.

10 —

What was the most famous dance hall in Central?

In about 1929, the dance hall at Riverside Park was disassembled and, in deference to flooding along the Comite, moved to Greenwell Springs Road near Sullivan. It was renamed Beech Grove.  The Eisworth store was nearby.

A few old timers are still alive you can remember the Beech Grove dance pavillion. Beech Grove was a happy, lively place from 1929 until the 1940’s. 

Many a first love blossomed at a party at Beech Grove.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.