From left to right are Rotarian Kermit Miller, Camille Fontenot from The Hotel Cazan, and Ville Platte Rotary President Peter Strawitz. (Gazette photos by Tony Marks)
Of valves and hauntings
After boarding a charter bus for a guided tour of Pine Prairie Energy Center for its Spring Social, the Ville Platte Rotary Club heard from management members of Cameron-Schlumberger in Ville Platte as well as of The Hotel Cazan in Mamou.
During the program on April 16, Cameron-Schlumberger’s Plant Manager Billy Fontenot and Humans Resources Manager Abby Landreneau talked about the recent layoffs at the plant that took place earlier this year.
“That reduction was due to the unpredictably of the markets,” Landreneau said. “When we saw the markets picking up and ramping up, we wanted to meet that demand. But, it just didn’t materialize the way we thought it would. Unfortunately we didn’t have the demand that we had ramped up for which resulted in a reduction.”
She continued, “The last two months have been better. We’re not where we want to be yet.”
Fontenot called it an extremely tough decision to let go of those employees. He said, “Those decisions had to be made, and those tough decisions are really for the greater good of the plant and the community.”
“As hard as it is to see that and realize that at the time,” he continued, “we have to stay competitive in the market and with other plants. That’s the only way to keep the whole thing here.”
Fontenot, earlier in the program, went through the history of Cameron in Ville Platte that began with the groundbreaking in 1981. He then went through the products and services coming out of the facility such as gate valves, ball valves, and check valves.
“In 1987 was when the Cameron T30 all welded ball valve was introduced into Ville Platte,” Fontenot explained. “It was from 2” to 12”, and now we’re doing valves as large as 42”.
Over the years, these products and services have changed to better meet the demand of Cameron’s customers. However the biggest recent change came when Schlumberger purchased the company.
“They are encouraging us more and more each day to become full Schlumberger,” Fontenot said. “I think I cried a little bit when I heard Cameron is gone, but slowly and surely we’re becoming fully branded into Schlumberger.”
Landreneau added, “Schlumberger acquires a lot, and that’s how they grow. In the past when they just came in and said you’re now Schlumberger, it wasn’t well received by employees. So, they built in that transition.”
“I still have people call it Cooper Oil,” quipped Fontenot.
Then at this week’s meeting on April 23, the Rotary Club heard from Camille Fontenot from The Hotel Cazan.
Fontenot called the hotel “a part of this parish and a vital part of tourism in the parish.”
She went on to say, “It’s a 17 room boutique hotel and was built in the turn of the century, and it’s haunted. We know it’s haunted, and our guests know it’s haunted. I’ve only had one guest who left.”
The staff knows the hotel is haunted because of a Paranormal Society investigation. Fontenot said, “If you go on YouTube and put in Hotel Cazan Mamou Louisiana, you will see those men and this greenish light and you will hear this faint cry in the wall.”
She continued, “I asked one of them if it was a child, and he said as serious as a heart attack, ‘You know the evil ones always appear as children.’ And, I went, ‘Oh, mon Dieu, it’s like Poltergeist.’”
Fontenot then described some of the hauntings experienced at the hotel including “a man who stands at the top of the staircase.” She added, “That has to be Mr. Cazan. I don’t think he would hurt anybody. I guess he’s just watching to see who’s coming.”
Besides the paranormal, Fontenot touched on events being held at the hotel such as weddings, funerals, and festivals. The big events that are ongoing on a monthly basis are the Cold Case Conferences.
As Fontenot explained, the conferences “came about when the little boy went missing in Point Blue and when they found the skeleton in the barn.”
From then, Fontenot and the hotel’s owner Valerie Cahill got involved in investigating the case of Alice Marie Reeves who went missing in 1967.
“She lived on New St. in Ville Platte,” Fontenot said, “and went to Mamou to bring her baby to a babysitter. She was never seen again. I found her daughter, and she’s been here for the conferences. She’s been trying to find the body of her mother for 30 years. We know who probably killed her, and we know what happened because the mafia was very much involved in Mamou at the time.”
“If you read the book A Rose by Many Other Names,” she continued, “it shows all the places from Barber Spur going toward Opelousas where people knew President Kennedy was going to get shot the next day. It’s all the same places this Alice Marie Reeves was involved in because she was a prostitute.”
At the end of her program, Fontenot said, “I’m always eager to tell people to come because it’s the only hotel we have in the parish that is a homed owned hotel. It is not a chain. We call it the oasis in the Cajun prairie desert, and we have fun there.”