Jim Bradshaw: When UFOs appeared over Louisiana
The flying saucer that sped over the front yard made a visit to her sister’s house especially memorable for a Ville Platte lady in the summer of 1949 — and they were not the only ones to report the strange sighting.
There had been so many that summer and in the summer before that Adras Laborde, who later became managing editor of the Alexandria Town Talk, planned a convention of saucer sighters in his town.
The Ville Platte Gazette reported on its front page on July 14, 1949, “Mrs. V. Dardeau, of Ville Platte, and her sister, Mrs. Edward Wolff, saw a flying saucer over Alexandria last week. The two sisters were sitting on the lawn of Mrs. Wolff’s residence one night last week when they became aware of a saucer zooming overhead.”
They said it was the size and shape of a plate, flew lower and slower than an airplane, made no sound, and had a yellow light in the center.
The sisters were “emphatic that it could not be anything else but a saucer,” according to the Gazette.
Mrs. G. S. Hart also saw the saucer over Alexandria. “It was all lit up,” she said.
“Then it stopped or changed its course and drifted toward the east. Then it moved toward the west and changed its course once more and disappeared in the east.” She said four people were with her and saw it.
The Town Talk’s editors scoffed a bit at the stories, reporting on July 7 that “flying saucers were absent from the skies over Alexandria last night after making an appearance the night before.”
However, there was another saucer sighting in the middle of the day on July 11 over Prairie Hayes in Acadia Parish.
N. L. Martin and his son, Gene, saw two of them about 9 a.m. Martin told the Crowley Post-Signal they were “of an aluminum color and kept glinting in the sunlight” and that they “would spin in a clockwise motion and reverse themselves.
The UFOs were back over Alexandria on July 17, when Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Rhino and two of their neighbors saw a disc in the northwest sky that was visible for several minutes, disappeared for about five minutes, and then reappeared before disappearing altogether.
H. B. Hunter of Alexandria wasn’t a believer.
He pointed out in a letter to the editor that the sightings were close to the Fourth of July, and suggested that they were nothing but fireworks.
“About two or three years ago,” he wrote to the Town Talk, “the Nations’ Fireworks Co. designed a little gadget that was made up of a skyrocket with a flash powder base and a bright zinc or aluminum propeller that drifts with the air currents. … The whirling propeller gives it the saucer shape by first reflecting, then burning itself out.”
That might have been the answer, but a spokesman said about that time that the Air Force was getting a dozen flying saucer reports each month.
They were “not a cause for alarm,” the spokesman said, but neither were they a joke. According to a wire service report, “Intelligence section officers said 30 percent of the reports have been due to conventional aerial objects such as weather balloons” and that those objects could probably account for another 30 percent.
But, according to the wire report, “40 percent remain a mystery.”
All of that discussion prompted Laborde to begin writing to people who said they’d seen strange things in the sky, inviting them to a “flying saucer witness’ conclave” in Alexandria.
The Young Man’s Business Club said it would sponsor the event because “Alexandria has long enjoyed a reputation as a convention city” and that it had recently become a “flying saucer city.” It was only natural to put the two together.
Laborde thought the convention could bring together witnesses, scientists, science writers, “and other specialists,” and that it could also result in a “national; association of flying saucer eyewitnesses.”
He said during the summer that the YMBC would hold the meeting if he could get 10 people to come.
That didn’t work out. Just before Thanksgiving he reported that only two people had signed up, none of them from Louisiana.
There were no new signings or sightings for the rest of the year.
A collection of Jim Bradshaw’s columns, "Cajuns and Other Characters," is now available from Pelican Publishing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.