The front of the old C.M. Miller General Merchandise Store that faces Highway 13 in Reddell is pictured here. The building, that originally was built in 1937, is currently being torn down to be used for recycled wood. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Recycled Reddell treasures
Towering over Highway 13 in Reddell is a building that was originally the C.M. Miller General Merchandise Store. According to some people in the area, it is the oldest building in what was once a bustling railroad community.
Much like the railroad cars that have been gone for years, the life of the building is also gone. What has also served as the Reddell post office is now being torn down leaving only memories of residents like the building’s owner Kitty Deshotel.
According to Deshotel, the building was built in 1937 where M.J. Reddell had a combination of his home and store from 1861-1925. The building was built out of cedar and pine, and the roof was made out of slate.
The store and post office closed in 1948, and Deshotel, along with her husband John, bought the building and property around 1972. “When we bought it, John made a mechanic shop out of it on the big side, and a game room for the kids on the other side,” said Deshotel.
She then explained that the building afterwards was the Christian Fellowship Church. “When the pastor took it for a church, he did the inside all with paneling that was like wood,” Deshotel stated. “It was a beautiful place inside. He had carpets on the floor and put a stand where he could get up and preach. He lowered the ceilings and put in air conditioning.”
“His wife took down with cancer, and he took the money from the church and went all the way to Mexico to save his wife,” she continued. “I think anybody would have done that. I can’t hold him responsible for that because he and his wife were very sweet people. I had no worries about them having the place over here at all.”
Once the church closed down, Deshotel’s husband used the building to do some French and English radio programs. “Then he made a little bar out of it and a game room on the other side,” she said. “When we opened the bar, it was mostly family that would come, and the kids would go on the other side to play in the game room because they weren’t allowed in the bar room.”
The building was also home to John’s motorcycle club called The Mudbugs. His wife Kitty said, “They had suppers every Friday night and music from John’s band called The Swampland Express and other bands. Our DJ in there was Turling Deville.”
“It was just good memories,” Deshotel continued. “People would get together there, and we’d have our Christmas parties or our Christmas dinners or even get togethers with friends. Everybody would bring a dish of food, and we would all talk about times and play some music and dance. It was a place for people to come and visit, and it was also a place for us to entertain our family because our family is big.”
The building began taking a downturn when the Deshotels moved to Upper Pine and when some of the renters did not take proper care of it. “We had decided to move back because John had gotten sick, and we couldn’t keep up what we had down there,” said Kitty. “We had our choice to sell either place, but this place meant a lot more to us, so we moved back.”
After moving back, John took a job with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office leading funeral processions. “He wanted to help the parish out and help the people out,” Kitty said.
Suppers then continued in the building for the motorcycle club and for other deputies. “That went on until about 15 years ago, then, after that, it just died down,” Deshotel said. “We closed it down and used it as a storage area for what we had. It hurts to see this go down. It would have cost us too much to have it redone, though. It would have cost us $20 thousand, and, at that time, John had gotten sick and everything else. He couldn’t do it.”
While the building is being torn down, parts of it will live on in other people’s homes. As Deshotel said, “The way I see it, this building is going all over the place because people will be using the lumber to build their homes. It’s going to that rustic style now.”
She went on to express how wonderful it is that parts of the building will live on with her treasured memories. “Now that it’s going to places all over, others will share what we had like the joy, the pleasures, and the history of the building. I see it as the life of the building will never die. It will always be there because when people get this wood, they will say that it came from a building in Reddell.”
“My husband is gone now, but he knew what was going to happen because they told him before he passed away,” she continued. “He was all happy to know that the building was going to be shared with other people.”
Deshotel still lives on the property behind the building in Reddell, and she sees the changing times in the community that is located between Pine Prairie and Mamou. “Reddell was a pleasant place to live before these modern times,” she said. “There’s still a lot of good people here, but it’s just they’re up in age now and can’t do what they used to do. There’s a lot of good memories. I raised my six kids here, and they liked it too. I’m going to stay here until I’m gone and they carry me out. That’ll be my last of it.”
As far as the future of the property where the building stands now, Deshotel concluded, “It’s up to God, not me.”