Saturday, April 13, 2024

Bossier Parish History: 4-H, the State Fair and Pigs, and the Peace Boys of Benton

by BPT Staff
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Digitally flip through the book, “Club Men of Louisiana in Caricature,” drawings by W.K. Patrick and Associates, 1917, available online from the Library of Congress, and you’ll find illustrations that poke fun at, yet revere some very influential members of clubs across Louisiana, a powerful, yet limited (all men, all white) group. Most of the men are from points further south. However, there’s one illustration that very clearly states it is in Shreveport – William R. Hirsch. A put-together and rather unperturbed-looking, oversize Billy Hirsch sits at a comparatively small desk, labeled “Secretary, State Fair of Louisiana.” The State Fair coliseum (not yet named after Hirsch) and Exposition Building are sketched behind him. 

Pam Carlisle

Surrounding Hirsch is a clearly loud, agitated mob of “ladies and gentlemen” assailing him with a barrage of questions or commentary: “I had the goldurned best pertaters in the hull shebang, war’s my prize?” “Tilly Moots got the prize I otta had -shameful!” and, “Samhill! Whar’s the prize on my shote? Thar wuz a blue ribbon on ‘im’?” That one I had to look up – turns out shote, aka shoat is a young pig. 

This cartoon had me wanting to learn more about Wiliam Rex Hirsch too. He was president of Hirsch & Leman Company of Shreveport, and secretary of the State Fair, though in more common parlance, he was often known as MISTER State Fair. He had deep roots in Shreveport and wanted to leave a lasting legacy on the city and state. His 1952 obituary said the affairs of youth, particularly the educational improvement of rural youth, was a deep-seated interest of his. The writer speculated it was one of the prime reasons that Mr. Hirsch was involved with the fair. (And if the cartoon was any indication, it was the adults who were “sore losers”.) The writer mentioned that Hirsch was especially a promoter of the livestock auction for 4-H entrants (the youth who were learning to have a future in agriculture) and that it is thought that the Louisiana State Fair under Hirsch was the very first to have 4-H’ers showing pigs, which then become commonplace across the country. 

By 1929, the swine show for adult farmers at the Louisiana State Fair was considered among the best in the country. Also, that year, the 4-Hers had really hit their stride with the Pig Club event, with Rapides Parish coming out on top. By 1944, 4-H club entries in the swine category at fairs and livestock shows bested even the pigs of adult competitors. 

By the late 1940’s, the best of the 4-H swine came from Bossier Parish. As announced in the Planters Press Bossier City newspaper of Jan. 30, 1947, three brothers from the Peace family in Benton, Ernest Richard, 13, Jerald, 11, and Marion Dale, 9, not only raised champion pigs and gained national recognition for their methods of care and the fine product that resulted, but then donated the pigs to the March of Dimes Polio fund for auction. The pigs brought in a record-breaking donation of $540, over $7,700 in today’s money!

In April of 1947, five Bossier 4-H club members exhibited 28 head of swine in the statewide competition at the Louisiana Junior Livestock Show in Baton Rouge, and got many of the honors. The grand championship “fat barrow” prize went to Jerald Peace’s 310-pound Duroc Jersey pig. Ernest Peace also won several places in the swine competition. Marion Dale was too young to participate in that show, but he attended along with their father, stock farmer Mr. E.R. Peace. In addition, Jerald’s pig was sent on an educational tour over the Illinois Central railroad as Bossier’s exhibit, with other 4-H exhibits taking up the entire train. The public was invited to attend this novel event and visit the giant porker during the train’s stop in Shreveport. 

The boys’ 4-H advisor, assistant agricultural extension agent Enoch Nix, and other adults who traveled to Baton Rouge for the exhibition, expressed pride in the Bossier boys’ fine showing at the event. Clearly their behavior, and the generosity of the Peace brothers, could teach the disgruntled adult exhibitors in the cartoon of William Hirsch a thing or two about gracious winning! 

Do you have any stories or photos to share of your Bossier Parish friends or family of various generations growing, raising, or preparing their own food? If so, we’d love to add either originals or copies to our collection. The Bossier Parish Libraries History Center is located at 2206 Beckett St, Bossier City, LA (across the street from the new Bossier Central Library). We are open M-Th 9-8, Fri 9-6, and Sat 9-5. Our phone number is (318) 746-7717 and our email is [email protected]

For other fun facts, photos, and videos, be sure to follow us @BPLHistoryCenter on FB, @bplhistorycenter on TikTok, and check out our blog

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