Lots of interesting stuff happened at Hope Villa

By W.C. Abbott, Jr.
Journal Correspondent

The buckshot pellets probably all fell in Bayou Manchac when John Easterly fired his single-barrel shotgun at the old Chevrolet touring car that was gaining speed as it went careening across the old Hope Villa bridge. The woman driver, who had waited outside with the motor running while the two men robbed the Levi Easterly store, left the Jefferson Highway after a few miles and drove the back roads to a point south of Baton Rouge where they smashed the slot machines in the woods. They had robbed the store and made their getaway.

"This is a holdup." The two men had entered the store, unnoticed until they made the announcement.

"We were crowded around the pinball machine watching the steel ball bounce from place to place, and when we turned we saw two tall men wearing red bandana handkerchiefs and holding pistols." My friend E.D. Dixon's 88-year old voice still reveals the excitement he must have felt as he tells about the Easterly store holdup that happened back in 1931 in the village of Hope Villa, Louisiana.

You may wonder why my friend Dixon seems to be in so many of the stories I'm telling you. Well, it may be because he has a good memory, or maybe he has a knack for always being where things happen, or maybe he is about the only one who is here to tell about these things except me and my brother Bill. Anyhow, he said that he and three of the McCrory boys, Charles, Sidney, and Eugene, along with John Easterly, the owner, and Junious York, a black man who did odd jobs around the store, were there when the robbery took place.

E.D. continued with his account of how it happened. "The men told us to line up, palms flat against the wall and the first one who looked around would get a bullet in his "butt." (According to the teller of this tale, he didn't use the word 'butt'. That statement seemed to impress us greatly, it sure did me," he continued. Mr. Easterly thought it was a prank and told the men to cut out the foolishness, but when one of the robbers jabbed him in the ribs with a gun he lined up with the rest of us. York was then told to take the slot machines and put them in the car. They took the money from the cash drawer and broke the pinball machine and got the cash from it. The Easterlys also ran the U.S. Post Office for Hope Villa, and when the robbers started to enter that area, Mr. Easterly warned them that if they messed with "Uncle Sam," the Feds would be on their trail, so they decided to pass up the post office.

The men left after warning that the first person to come out of the store would be shot. After the car was heard to drive off, John ran to the counter, got his shotgun, ran outside and fired a parting shot at the car as it entered the bridge headed toward East Baton Rouge Parish.

The three outlaws were captured several weeks later and charged with armed robbery. At the trial they were convicted and spent several years behind bars.

Back then, lots of things happened at Hope Villa.