Mural, Mural on the Wall
High on the back wall of the Bayou Teche Museum, you will find a mural depicting the French explorer LaSalle. In 1682 LaSalle claimed the Louisiana territory for France, and he gave Louisiana its name in honor of King Louis XIV. The mural captures this moment and is the work of renowned muralist Robert Dafford of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Interestingly, Dafford did not paint the mural on the museum wall; rather, he painted it on wooden panels at his Garfield Street studio in the late 1990s. Dafford originally designed and constructed the mural for LARC’s Acadian Village, and it hung there for many years as part of a diorama regarding the founding of Louisiana. Luckily for New Iberia, because LARC renovated the space they donated the mural to the Bayou Teche Museum in 2009.
What does it mean for BTM to have a Robert Dafford mural? Consider that Dafford is one of the most acclaimed American muralists. His works can be found on many public buildings in Lafayette and New Orleans. He has also created murals for cities throughout the Ohio Valley, as well as cities in Belgium, Canada, England and France. With over 350 completed murals to his name, Robert Dafford is one of the most prolific muralists in the world. Understandably, the Bayou Teche Museum is proud to have one of his murals in its collection.
Hey, That’s My Picture!
Second grader Blake Migues visited the Museum in late 2020 with his younger brother and his aunt. While they were at the front desk, we asked Blake where he goes to school. When he replied that he attends St. Edward School, we asked if he had drawn a picture for the Sugar Cane Festival. He said yes, and we told him that some of the pictures were on display in the museum.
Full of enthusiasm, Blake rushed over to the display and was happily surprised to find his picture on the wall. He agreed to pose for a photo with his picture, and you can see it below.
Blake has a new enthusiasm for museums, now that he has seen his own picture hanging on the wall. Of course, it probably helped that he was able to simulate a controlled explosion in the Salt exhibit. Boom!
You Want to Donate What?
You just never know what donations will come through the doors of the Bayou Teche Museum. It might be a local with a vintage sign from his long-closed family business. Or an out of state visitor with a historical photograph of ancestors from the Bayou Teche region. But once in a while, it’s something truly unique. Like the recently donated pith helmet. Pith helmet, you say? Yes, a pith helmet with a story to tell.
Back in 1937, Cecil B. DeMille came to South Louisiana to film a movie about Jean Lafitte entitled The Buccaneer. Some of the cast and crew stayed in New Iberia while filming was taking place in nearby Catahoula. Fredric March starred in the production, and many locals played small parts or worked in the production crew. Keith Courrégé was one such local, and he was apparently quite a character. Widely known as an excellent chef, later in life he penned the cookbook Pecans from Soup to Nuts. As a matter of fact, his grandson Jady Regard is the Chief Nut Officer of Cane River Pecan Company. Perhaps the pecan doesn’t fall far from the tree!
At some point during production on The Buccaneer, Keith Courrégé passed around the pith helmet and collected autographs and messages. It was probably at a party, this being Cajun Country. Many members of the cast and crew left their mark on the pith helmet. One such message was written by Art Rosson, the Second Unit Director, and is pictured below. Many of the messages were directed to Keith Courrégé such as, “From Carl Coleman, Prop Man Paramount Pictures, to one swell fellow – Keith.”
Keith Courrégé is no longer here to tell us about that party. But his daughter-in-law, Julie Regard, was kind enough to donate the pith helmet to the museum. Perhaps additional research will turn up more details to add to the story of Cecil B. DeMille’s adventure along the Bayou Teche and the part played by Keith Courrégé and his pith helmet.