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Title: Oral History Interview with Lee Boe, June 2, 2006. Interview U-0224. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Boe, Lee, interviewee
Interview conducted by Shelborne, Elizabeth
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: ## Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2008.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-06-12, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Lee Boe, June 2, 2006. Interview U-0224. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s. Southern Oral History Program Collection (U-0224)
Author: Elizabeth Shelborne
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Lee Boe, June 2, 2006. Interview U-0224. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s. Southern Oral History Program Collection (U-0224)
Author: Lee Boe
Description: 146 Mb
Description: 38 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 2, 2006, by Elizabeth Shelborne; recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Note: Transcribed by Emily Baran.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series U. The Long Civil Rights Movement: The South Since the 1960s, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Lee Boe, June 2, 2006.
Interview U-0224. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Boe, Lee, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LEE BOE, interviewee
    ELIZABETH SHELBORNE, interviewer

[DISC 1, TRACK 1]


Page 1
[START OF DISC 1, TRACK 1]
LEE BOE:
My name is Lee Boe and today is June second, 2006.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Now you were just saying about this difference.
LEE BOE:
Okay, you're doing this about New Orleans and I was saying that this is St. Bernard Parish. St. Bernard Parish seems like the forgotten parish. A lot of things have happened here that nobody really hears about. Every house and business in St. Bernard was under water, every one. We had close to seventy thousand people in St. Bernard Parish; every one has been affected. There wasn't a place that you could go to to get out of this because the whole parish was under water. New Orleans had its areas that were under water, but it wasn't the whole complete city. There's Jefferson Parish, past New Orleans, who got some damage but not as much. The further east that you went, the worse the storm was. Always the eastern track of the storm was the worst part. So we got a pretty bad hit from it. Like I said, I just feel like we're forgotten. All you hear on the TV and in the newspaper and everything is about New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans, whereas St. Bernard was left with nothing.
We had no electricity for like three months after the storm, none. When they were running reports on TV, they would say, "Oh, NTG has restored power to certain sections of the city," how many customers and everything like that, and you'd always get to St. Bernard Parish: "Zero restored," nothing left. Our power came from New Orleans East, which is maybe

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six or seven miles from here and it has to go over the intercoastal waterway where the MRGO and all of that is, through big towers and wires and everything, through the swamp, and then it comes to St. Bernard Parish. Well, the towers, the wires, and everything were completely gone after the storm. They were like starting from scratch. They had to rebuild the towers, to string the wires by the helicopter, in order to just make it available, not to mention all the downed power lines and everything once it did get here. So everything has been extremely slow to get started back in St. Bernard Parish. The electricity was the main thing that we needed and we needed it right away and we didn't have it right away.
Let's see. The gas was turned off. Gas is still not available in plenty of areas. Water was contaminated for quite some time too. You could wash with it, but not drink it. But slowly but surely, it's all coming back. I've been here since the beginning. I was here for the storm and had to leave when the water came up. I don't know if you want to ask me questions.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
When you left, where did you go and when did you come back?
LEE BOE:
Okay. When did we leave? When did we leave? The morning of the storm, it was me and my brother was the only two that was here. His wife died two days before the storm. They lived across the street. He didn't want to evacuate for the storm, grieving process and that, I can understand that. So I said, "We'll just stay here." So we stayed here through the storm. We stayed in my house. I had everything boarded up tight, every window was covered, and I knew we'd be safe from the winds, hundred-and-thirty-mile-an-hour winds. The house could withstand that and it surely did. The following morning, well, I'm an early riser, I get up at five o'clock, and that's when the storm was just about really kicking good.
So I come outside on the front porch. You could stand outside without being wet. The street was flooded, normal street flooding, like from a rain shower and that, and it pretty much

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stayed like that for a couple of hours. We're watching the news and the weather and everything like that. We still had electricity at the time. It was about seven thirty, the parish president for St. Bernard Parish came on and said that there eight feet of water in Arabi. Arabi's like two miles from here. Right after he said that, that's when we lost power. And I'm just thinking to myself, "Well, what is that? How could they have eight feet of water in Arabi? What was he talking about? Was that back by the levee? Was that by the river? Was it coming from the city?" I don't know.
It might have been maybe an hour after that, seven thirty, say about eight thirty, we were still outside on the front porch just watching the weather, couldn't stay inside with no lights, and it was already getting warm in there. And the street was still flooded and all of a sudden, looking down the street from that direction, coming from the north, you could see waves in the street, not normal rain water, like white-capped waves pushing real, real quick. The instant I seen it, I knew that the levee was broke. So the only thing I said was, "You take one of my dogs. I'll take the other dog. And get out of the house." I'd say in five minutes time, just enough to put a leash and a collar on each one of them, I had a little bag packed with important papers, money, credit cards, that kind of stuff. There was already one foot of water inside the water in five minutes time. So you can't say you had time to pick up anything or save pictures. There's no way, no possible way you could have done anything like that. You hear horror stories of people drowning in attics. Well, that's the last place I'm going to go is in the attic. I said, "Just get me outside."
So we walked out the door. I managed to pull the door closed and dead-bolt it locked. We get to the sidewalk right there. It's almost waist-deep. And we headed toward St. Bernard highway up here, which seemed like it took forever. It seemed like a fifteen-minute-walk

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wading through water. The whole time, waves are pushing you and the storm is still passing. So you've got a hundred-and-thirty-mile-an-hour winds on top of that. You're each carrying a dog and a suitcase and just barely struggling to get to the highway. Well, I figured if we got to the highway, we'd be safe because the highway is much higher in elevation than it is on the back streets. We made it to the highway, had a chance to stop and catch your breath, and the water kept coming. It kept coming, kept coming, kept coming.
We were about four blocks from the St. Bernard Courthouse, which is a three-story complex, old, old building. I said, "Well, we have to head to that." So we just walked in the wind and the rain and the floodwaters on our heels the whole time, watching the water coming up. We looked down the streets. You could see the water rushing up the whole time. But it wasn't just normal rainwater. It was water pushing like white caps, the actual surge coming through. We make it to the courthouse and the courthouse, I guess, is on a little bit higher elevation than this. We figured, "It's alright here." We looked back at the streets by the courthouse; no, the water's coming up there too just as strong as it was on this street. That was the day of the storm.
So we got in the courthouse. By the time the water got to its highest point, the courthouse is maybe on six or eight steps to get to the first floor, the water was up all those steps plus one foot of water in the downstairs of the courthouse. I imagine it was like six feet deep in front of the courthouse and it leveled off; it stopped there. It didn't get up any higher. We spent the first night in the courthouse, in the courtroom where they hold court at, with about four hundred other people in the dark, with no windows, hot, no water. Somebody managed to get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So everybody in the place got one single peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There was old people. There were sick people. There were

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screaming kids. Everybody was scared, not knowing what to do. By the time it was nightfall, it was total blackness, no street light, no nothing. The oil refinery is right across the street, dead silent, no lights coming from there either, which was strange; you'd never see that ever. So everybody slept sitting up on the benches.
The following morning, they evacuated us by boat from the courthouse to the St. Bernard Jail, which is about six or eight blocks from there. We got on the boat. They brought us as close as they could get to the jail—the jail was on a little bit higher ground—until the boats started dragging and then they stopped, let us out, and you had to wade through the water to get to the jail. We get to the jail. They were taking maybe fifteen, twenty people at a time, registering them just to identify who's there, and letting you come in. They promised us, "Oh, there's electricity at the jail. It's air-conditioned and everything." No, there's electricity, but no, there's no air. There's just vent air, just a fan running, no cold air. In the jail, I've never been in jail before, but it's made out of cement. Everything, the floors, the walls, the ceiling, everything is cement. So everything is sweaty. Everything is wet, damp, people slipping and falling, really really nasty, and they put us up in the cell block, which was about eight people, ten people, each one had like a little bedroom cell and a gathering place where you would sit and eat your meals together in a glass-enclosed room. We was in there for a little while.
Oh yeah, by the way, they wouldn't let the dogs come with us. They had an area outside, an enclosed area that was an exercise area if you was in jail, where they play basketball, tennis, and things like that. That's where they was putting the dogs. So nobody's really taking care of the dogs and we're talking ninety-something-degree heat. So I would go out there and bring them water and food and come back in. Well, we come back in one time and for some reason, somebody slammed the door of the cell and we were locked in the cell. So

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everybody panics. It was a strange feeling. I've never been in jail before and I don't like the feeling. It took them maybe fifteen minutes before they found the right person with the key to come let us out, to open it up.
Well, they let us out and I said, "Get me the hell out of here." I said, "We're going outside. I'm not staying in here." My brother was all for it, no problem. And so we went outside, got the dogs out of the yard, because in the yard was everybody's dogs, big dogs, little dogs, old dogs, sick dogs. I'd seen a couple of them die from heat exhaustion, stroke, or whatever. I said, "That ain't going to be my turn." So we just stayed outside the jail. We found a seat out of a van and we brought that and put it underneath a tree and we spent the night outside that night.
From there, the next morning, they decided that we can't stay at the jail no more. You have to leave the jail because they're going to make this a medical facility because there were still people in the Chalmette De La Ronde Hospital and they were going to evacuate those people to the jail. So they told us we have to go the boat launch, which is right down the street from the jail where the ferry that goes across the river can take you across. We get to the ferry. Everybody's on foot and it was everybody that was from the courthouse and whoever made it to the jail on their own too. To get on the ferry, the landing for the ferry is damaged, so you had to get to the end of the ferry, like where the cars would drive on it. Then you would have to have somebody kind of help you to get from one area to the other, because it was all bent. We get to there. They get us loaded on the ferry. Then we took the ferry ride upriver to what's called the Algiers Point.
At Algiers Point, they let us off and we had to sit there and wait for school buses. So we waited for maybe three hours there for the school bus. School buses come. We finally get on a

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school bus. It takes us from the west bank in Gretna, or I guess that's Gretna, Algiers. They're going to take us to the I-10 around the causeway to take bigger buses out of town. So we get to the school buses. They take us there. They drop us off on the interstate. There's thousands of people here. People are still being air-lifted, evacuated from New Orleans East by helicopters. That's all you heard every minute or two, no exaggeration, was a helicopter taking off or landing. That was more people that they dropped off. They just kept dropping them off, dropping them off. And the school buses are continuing to bring people to them. We're waiting for the big buses like Greyhound or whatever kind of bus line they're going to have lined up for us.
We're waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, somebody comes up there and we have water, bottled water, hot, okay, but there was water. So they was throwing it, just throwing and tossing them out to the crowd. So we got the water. We're waiting and waiting and waiting. There must have been six, eight hours passed, nothing else, nothing, just water. So then I guess maybe sixteen hours passed. So then they finally out with those MRE meals. So they start tossing them out to the crowd. Well, people are going crazy for these things because they're starving or something. I don't know. So we got a few of them like that and we opened them up, never seen anything like that before. They were very nasty, I must say. I ate stuff like the cookies or crackers or snacks or something out of it. As far as the food, I didn't want nothing to do with it, but at least it was there. It's something that you could survive for a day on one of these meals.
All total on the interstate, we waited for thirty-two hours for a bus. At the end, it got to a pushing and shoving contest to see who was going to get to the bus. The thing that pissed me off most about the buses was Governor Blanco was there and the news media is there. And

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they're going to set this up to make a big production that, "Oh, we've brought the buses to the people," and everything. So they held the buses up. We're out there in this ninety-something-degree heat, sun-burnt like you wouldn't believe, for thirty-six hours. Tempers are real short, fights left and right all around us. If that's what it takes for you to get on a bus, we'll just sit to the back and wait. We'll get the last bus because I'm not getting into it with anybody over this. But they held up the buses for so long. Then finally the news people were there. Finally she's lined up there, made her little speech and everything. Five minutes after the little commercial is finished and the news item's done, the buses are there. That's what it was. They was holding up the buses just to make this big production that, "Oh, here's the air-conditioned buses coming to take these people to evacuate them out of town."
They wanted to make it look like it was a racial thing. The only thing was the poor black people that was left. Which yes, there is a lot of poor black people, but there's a lot of white people too and class or means or anything doesn't have anything to do with that. We were all in the same place. This is not something we had control over, but don't make it look like, "Oh, it's just the black people and this is the blacks." Now yeah, some of them were acting up. Yeah, there was a lot of white people acting up because everybody was just, nerves were frazzled, and we couldn't take it anymore and waiting and waiting and waiting, very unorganized how the buses come. They know that the buses hold between fifty-five and sixty people. We've got National Guard. We have police. We have state troopers. Why they couldn't round you up to a gate, give you a number or count off fifty people, keep them in line right there. The next bus comes up. Let them fifty people come on. No, the buses come, the doors open, and people plow in there like it's a rock concert with free tickets, just pushing and shoving to get in it. Then the next bus, the next bus, the next bus.

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Well at first, from what we heard is: "We're taking you to Baton Rouge. That's going to be our next evacuation point where we can house the people." So I said, "That's fine." All I wanted to do was get to Ponchatoula where my niece lives. I knew if we could get any further away from New Orleans and closer to Ponchatoula, that would be good. Baton Rouge is not that far from Ponchatoula. All it would take is a phone call, if we had a phone to call with, and get through, we'd get somebody to come get us. But like I said, thirty-six hours later, by the time we got on the bus, it's no longer going to Baton Rouge. We have to go further west. So we ended up in Houston. That was like an eight, maybe nine hour ride on the bus.
I don't remember too much of the ride because I was just totaled out sleeping. In the meantime, I'd been in the same clothes for like four days in contaminated water and everything. My legs was both infected. I called it a "Katrina rash." I have no idea what it was, but from my knees on down was like a blood red rash, that by the time we got there, I needed medical attention immediately. We pull up in the—was it the Reliance Center or the Astrodome? And they said that there's like a triage operation where people who need medical help was going to be able to go: "So just remain here on the bus until we get all of this straightened and get your information and everything."
I got up, got out, carrying my dog with me. I'm getting treatment right now and nobody's stopping me. I get to the Reliance Center and everything and there was a part outside where people with notebooks are going through the information and if you've got a medical card, give it to them, and blah blah blah, all that stuff. So I filled out what I've got to do and I'm waiting and waiting and waiting. Then they take you inside for that. So then they tell you, "We can't treat you because you've got the dog with you." I said, "What am I supposed to do? The dog, I kept her from drowning in the flood. You think I'm going to give her up here

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because you don't want to take the dog inside? Like she looks like she would really hurt somebody. She weighs like nine pounds." So I said, "The hell with you all." I didn't get any treatment there.
In the meantime, my brother gets off the bus and we get separated and we're at the Astrodome, which is a huge, huge place. Everybody is everywhere and nobody knows anything. So we're separated. I don't know what to do, how to find him, just walking around, walking around, walking around. I haven't eaten in all of those days either, just with water mostly, water and cigarettes. I remember it was starting to get dark. The next thing I remember it was dark. I was laying on the ground and people were pouring water in my face because I blacked out. After that, I was just disoriented. I was way in the front of the area where the stadium was. I had no idea how to find my brother or anything.
I said, "Well, I'm going to find a hotel room and I'm going to rent me a car," because I did have money. I had a nice sum of cash and twenty-something credit cards on me. I'm going to find something. But at that time at night, no, you couldn't find it, not in the city of Houston. So I walked to the interstate, which I don't know how long it was from there, but it must have been like fifteen miles and I walked to the next exit on the interstate with the dog and my little backpack, got off the interstate, and walked to a service station and got something to drink, something to eat, junk food or whatever, asked them, "Is there a hotel around here?" Well, they only had one of those hotels that they rent by the hour, if you know what I mean, but a bed's a bed. "Where is it?" He says, "It's about a mile down the road that way." I made it there. They had a room. Good. I got to take a bath, bathe the dog, and sleep in a real bed.
The following morning I get up. I go to the lobby to use the phone. I said, "I need to get a rental car." The only place you can rent a car is at the airport. I said, "Can you get me a cab?"

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So they called me a cab. I got in the cab, rode to the airport, got me a rental car, went back to the dome to look for my brother. Well, it's daytime and I'm in a little bit better frame of mind the next morning anyway. So you go to each one of the exits: north, south, east and west exits. Outside there was a Red Cross thing set up, like you're looking for somebody's that lost, where you give them their name and inside of the dome, the banner—you know how you can light up the banner with information and everything around it—they'd have that and they would flash the name: "Meet your brother by the west gate," or something like that. Still, you're not going in the dome with the animals, with the dogs. So I got one and he's got one. So I figure he's probably going to be around the Red Cross thing, but he's not going to be inside. So that's not going to do me too much good. What happens is I guess he was doing the same thing, but he might have been at the east gate while I was at the west gate or the north or the south. We just must have been crossing paths the whole time.
I forgot to mention I didn't have any shoes. So somebody gave me a pair of flip flops and I had been walking for all those miles on the interstate with flip flops. So both of my feet were covered in blisters that I couldn't do too much walking. I spent about six hours that day around the dome looking for him until I couldn't walk anymore. The dog couldn't walk anymore; the bottoms of her feet are bleeding. So I got to carry her now. I said, "We can't do this. I got to go."
We just get back to the car. I said, "Well, I'm going to make it to Ponchatoula by my niece's house;" that's his daughter. We got in the car and drove, but I was too tired to make it all the way in one day. So I stopped around Lafayette, Louisiana, I believe, and spent the night again. The following morning, I got up, made it to Ponchatoula. When I got to Ponchatoula, I found out that my brother did get in touch with them finally and they were on their way to pick

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him up from Houston. So we finally got hooked up with that and he came back with them maybe three or four hours after I got there. At least we got reunited and the dogs got reunited again and we was with family and that's where we needed to be. I stayed in Ponchatoula until the first of the year. My brother was a lot luckier than me. He ended up getting a FEMA trailer within the first month due to where he works at. His boss managed some kind of way to get trailers delivered on the site where he works at and gave him a trailer; so that was good for him. I had to do it the slow way, going through FEMA and everything else and apply for it and wait for it to be delivered, this, that, and the other thing. I got this right before Christmas. This was my Christmas present. It was like the twentieth or the twenty-first of December it came. And that's when I come back, was maybe the second of January, and I've been here ever since.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Did you ever think about not coming back?
LEE BOE:
The first trip of coming back, which I think was, I'm not sure if that was the last week in September, it was after hurricane Rita struck and there was some minor flooding again and it was maybe two weeks after that or something like that. It might have been the first or second week in October was the first time we got to come back. And the first time I came back and looked around, I said, "I don't want to be here." I was just willing to chuck it all, just leave, walk away, and not come back. I have this house and I had two cars; I lost both of them. I also have another house in Arabi; I lost that too. So two houses and two cars, and it was very disgusting to come back to something that there was nothing, not even the basic things to get by with: electricity, water, or anything. What you came with, they told you, "Bring food and water with you and make sure you have enough gas to get you where you've got to go and get you home again because there's no place to buy gas here either." But after the first time, I think I said, I didn't want to come back. You do a lot of soul searching, thinking about stuff until you

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decide that you're going to go back and you go back. I would go back two or three times a week. I'd come and do a little bit here and there. I literally dug the house out of the slop to get to the point that it's at now. It doesn't look that much better, but it's something.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What did it look like when you came back?
LEE BOE:
It's horrible. I got pictures I can show you when we finish. There was eight feet of water in here inside the house, just like barely into the attic. I'd imagine it stayed in the house for maybe two weeks. So it's not like the water just came up and then washed right out. It came up and it stayed up and stayed in the home for a long time. The first time coming back, I was like, "Oh, I'm going to just go get me one of those little rental sheds and I'm going to be able to save some furniture," or something like that. But going back in the house afterwards, being that the water was in there for so long, the only description I could give you is it looked like everything melted; like a candle melts, the sheet rock melted off the ceiling. The furniture that was glued together was flat as a pancake on the floor. An expensive bedroom set that I had recently just got was just disintegrated to nothing. And pretty much everything else in the house was the same way. There was no saving anything no matter where you had anything at. If it was in the top of closet, it still was under water, into the attic.
It was disgusting. It took a lot to get past that. The thing that made it a lot better was when you could get the house empty of your personal possessions and you could just see the house for what it is, accept the part that you're left, and the possessions can be replaced. It's your whole life, looking at your possessions sitting in there in ruins, stuff that you accumulated for all those years, and you just don't have it. But once all of that was out of the house, you could really sit back and take a good look at things for how they really are.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
And what did you think when you did that?

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LEE BOE:
I felt better; I felt a lot better because I know I could fix the house up again and have things again. There'll be new cars coming. All of that can change. It was just getting past the memories of the stuff that was in the house.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What were some of the things that you lost?
LEE BOE:
The most valuable things was pictures. I'd give anything for them back. Everything else, it really doesn't matter. People think, "Oh, I wish I had that, I wish I had that." None of that matters. We owned way too many things that we didn't need. You find that out now, that you don't need all of the stuff you had.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What was this neighborhood like before?
LEE BOE:
Oh, a very nice neighborhood, mostly elderly people in here who was probably original owners of the houses when the houses were built in the fifties. All of their homes were paid for. They raised their families here and they were retired, very few young families on this street at all. Most houses were in good condition, a couple not so good, but most people took pride in what they had. Like Friday and Saturday, everybody'd be out there working in their yard cutting their grass. If this neighbor did it on Friday, the next neighbor did it on Saturday, so everybody's looked the same.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Really?
LEE BOE:
They took care of it. It was really nice. I want to see it come back to that again.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Do you think it's going to?
LEE BOE:
Yeah. I think it's going to be really slow coming back. There's a lot of people who's not coming back. But I think I counted seventeen trailers on this street. Pretty much if you see a trailer there, that's somebody that is coming back. There's thirty-seven houses on the street; so it's about half, about half. That could change. Other people could decide to come

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back. There's stuff with FEMA for assistance, which they were very, very slow. How that works is they assessed your property. If you had home owners and flood insurance—I had home owners, no flood. This was an area that didn't require flood insurance, so I didn't have it. If you tell me I don't need it, why buy it? Which now I know I need it. I already have it, okay. So I didn't get any money out of the deal from my insurance company. The home owners only covers wind damage. I had a hundred and sixty-eight dollars of wind damage. It was where my telephone wire mounts to the house, it pulled the board loose. That was the only wind damage I had in the whole house, no broken windows, no roof leaks, nothing torn off, and they have a five-hundred-dollar deductible; so you get nothing from home owners. I have no flood.
FEMA reviews your case and determines that it has to go to the SPA from them to see if you qualify for a loan. So they say you qualify for a loan. I said, "Are you aware that I don't have a job anymore?" Let these people know this upfront. The place I worked for for sixteen years was under water and they're not relocating here. So I have no job. "Oh, this goes on your past credit history, that if you paid your bills on time, blah blah blah, you can qualify for the loan." So okay, I qualify for the loan. Now you have to wait for the SPA to come out and do their inspection to see, assess their damages of what will it take to get your home back together, which they did finally. I don't remember the dates or times or anything like that. But it was for a hundred and forty-something thousand dollars.
The process to get that going is you have to sign your life away in contracts because it acts like a second mortgage on your home, that they are a lien hold on your home. They disperse the money in ten-thousand-dollar increments at first. You get ten thousand dollars once you sign the papers. Then they bury you in more paperwork that you need a conveyance, you need a title search, you need inspections done by a civil engineer to prove that this house is

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structurally sound and worthy of being rebuilt, a whole bunch of stuff that has to be mailed to them or faxed to them. They have to receive it. Their attorneys have to review it. Once it can be okayed, then they'll disperse some more money, which was like three weeks ago they did this for me and I had forty thousand dollars more, which has gotten me started me now to as far as I can progress with that.
Forty thousand might sound like a lot, but it's not. Contractors, I don't want to say they're robbing people, but they're extremely high. Anything as far as building materials that you buy is extremely high. I'm not stupid. Prices have just gone up to take advantage of the situation. You have to find a contractor that you trust and believe in because you hear horror stories about that, that they take the money and run. Luckily the ones that I have are pretty good at what they do. They don't expect you to pay for the whole amount upfront. They'll take it in partial payments, like "We do so much work, give us a check for that. When we get so much completed again, give us a check for that. When we're finished, give us a check for the balance," which is a sensible thing to do. They'll get a lot of work like that being honest. That's going to help them.
The forty thousand, like I said, is almost gone. So what you have to do now is save every receipt for everything that you spend on the home. You have to send copies of the receipts back to the SPA for them to review to see how you spend the money. Because some people might say, "Well, you sent me forty thousand dollars. I'm going to buy me a Lexus and I'm going to Las Vegas." I'm sure there's people out there that's doing crazy stuff like that because I see a lot of people in new cars who didn't even own cars before. I'm doing it all correctly. I've got every receipt. I will take care of that. And you have to prove to them within

Page 17
eighty percent, you have to show what you've spent eighty percent of the money on. You can't be accountable for every penny and thankfully they understand that too.
Once that's done, then they give you a final disbursement of however how much or how little that you think you need to finish completing your home and furnishing your home and whatever it takes to get it done. They give you a one-year grace period before the payments start, which is a good thing. So next February would be my first payment. I don't plan on using the whole amount of money. I want to keep the price down. I'm a do-it-yourself guy. I'll do what I know how to do and what I can't, I'll get somebody to do for me. So that's pretty much how it's going so far. I could see some people just go hog wild and just tell somebody, "Here's a check. Come back and put the key in my hand when it's finished," but I'm not like that. I needed to be involved in it every step of the way. I have my own sense of taste and style and that's not going to change.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So what's the work that you're doing yourself, the work that you know how to do?
LEE BOE:
Dig the house out of the slop, that was the first thing. I emptied the house pretty much on my own. Gutting the house, I did have assistance from a group of volunteers called Hilltop Rescue, which they deserve to be mentioned, very good people. There was a crew that came in there, like twenty people, and knocked it out in a day's time, did a real good job, and they made you feel good while they was doing it. The stuff that I've done since then is replaced all the windows and replaced all the doors, that you could actually lock the house up again. If you buy any building materials, you've got no place to put it; it could be out in the open. Not that there's thieves or anything around here, but not everybody's honest either and you just feel safer that you got a place that you got keys for, that you can lock up everything.

Page 18
So that's the part that I've done. I'm starting to paint the house. I can do the outside of the house, paint, no special talent for that. You can give anybody a paint brush and put it in their hand and tell them, "Here, paint." And the contractors are working inside, so finally I've got something going on my side. I had the carpenters in there first. Reconfigurations were done inside and I've changed it around, the floor plan. Once that's done, the next step is the electrical. So the electricians have been in, roughed in, and completed. Then the plumbers come and they do what you need for plumbing, all the things that have to be changed. Then after that you have to have the AC and the heat, who were there today and supposed to finish tomorrow.
Once they're done, then the house goes for an inspection from St. Bernard Parish. St. Bernard Parish will send some kind of engineer or I don't know who is going to inspect it and tell me that's it okay, you can close the walls up now. That means you can insulate the walls and put the sheet rock up. Once the sheet rock and painting is done inside, then the electricians come back and actually put the fixtures and the seal and the sockets, light switches, everything like that. Then the plumbers come and they set the tub, toilet, vanity, kitchen sink, hot water heater, the utility tub, everything that needs to be done. And I think there's a final inspection after that.
After that, you're good to go. You can finish it anyway you like. You don't need anybody's approval, permit, or anything like that. You're pretty much coming down to the end then anyway. It's mostly just your choice of styles and things and pick your carpet and floors and paint schemes and whatever. I'm hoping it may be two to three months to have it complete and be back in it and I can give this miserable tin can back to FEMA.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What are you going to do that first night back in your house?
LEE BOE:
The two things that I miss the most is take a bath and sleep in a real bed. That's what I want more than anything. I miss that more than anything. The simple things are the things you really miss, but you don't realize that until you don't have them.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What happens after that, once you're back in and sort of done working?
LEE BOE:
I have to look for a job; I don't have a job. My unemployment ran out too, so I have no income at all right now, nothing.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
When did your unemployment run out?
LEE BOE:
Three weeks ago.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
How long did it last?
LEE BOE:
What it was is right after the storm, I had an unemployment claim open from my work like before anything to do with the storm. I don't know if you know anything about unemployment. They have a benefit year. When you sign up for it, it's one year from that date when it ends. So the benefit year ran out in November, the end of November, Thanksgiving week in November. So then you can open a new claim at that date, like November thirtieth or whatever it was, but that claim only runs for twenty-three weeks. After the twenty-three weeks, it stops unless there's extended benefits. At high times of unemployment, you could have an extended benefits, which would be for, it's either another eleven or twenty-three weeks; I'm not sure what it is. But they don't have that right now, so that's out. I can't get unemployment again until November, which I'll be back working by then. I'll find a job somewhere, if I have to flip burgers to do it. It doesn't matter; there'll be something there.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What were you doing before?
LEE BOE:
I used to make computer parts, but they're not relocating here. They offered me a job where the mother company is in Erie, Pennsylvania, but I don't want to make the move.

Page 20
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Why not?
LEE BOE:
Too much going on here. Even after I get this house finished, I own another house in Arabi, which I haven't done anything to; it's gutted and that's it. Now I'm hearing stories they want you to have it boarded up and grass cut and all kind of other foolishness and that by the one year anniversary of the storm. I don't even know what to do with that house; I just want to sell it as is, just to get out of it. That's something else. At least I'll have something coming in for me eventually for that, if there's people out there to buy them. There's a lot for sale around here, but a lot of people are buying. I watch the real estate guide every week and I see which ones are sold and usually I write down the address and I take a ride there and check them out and say, "Well, why was this one worth thirty thousand whereas some of them are worth seventy thousand?" It all depends on the neighborhood and what that flood plain is too, what area you are as far as that goes because some places, it's further to the north. In Buccaneer Villa North, if they develop that again, the flood insurance is going to be much higher in that area because they had more water, they're more prone to flood.
So I don't know how that's going to be. The areas that have the lowest risk are going to be the most desirable areas to buy. There's going to be people with money that are going to come in and snatch up a whole bunch of houses. Right now, we're just so pressed for any places to live or rent or anything that if you took one of these houses, any one on this street right now, and remodeled it and put it up for rent, you could rent it for twelve hundred dollars today and you'd have people calling you at twelve o'clock tonight begging you to rent them a house and you could just name your price, because there's nothing. It's going to be real slow in coming back.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
The house in Arabi, was that a place that you rented?

Page 21
LEE BOE:
It was a house that I inherited. A good friend of mine passed away who had no family and he left me his house. I was still in the process. I had power of attorney over him when he was still alive. After he passed, he made me executor of his estate and all of that was like in the works with my attorney when the storm hit. All of the records were listed at St. Bernard courthouse, which they lost. They tried sending them out to some place in Texas. They were trying to freeze dry the records to see what they could save. My attorney's pretty smart and knowledgeable about that stuff. She will keep on it one way or the other until we get what we need to finish the succession and put me in possession of that house.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So what's the story right now in terms of that? Is it just sort of frozen?
LEE BOE:
Pretty much. There's a succession bank account that I really can't touch until this is over with, until we get all the necessary papers and everything. She says sometimes you can sell a home while it's in succession through the courts and that, but I don't think there's anybody breaking down my door to buy the home like that. From what I'm thinking, just my own personal experience, the longer you hold onto it, eventually it's going to be in more of a demand for people to buy, which would bring the price up higher when you do go to sell. I'm in no hurry for that. I want this house because I need to live here. That one doesn't really matter to me.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about how it was that you ended up in New Orleans. Were you born here and did you grow up here?
LEE BOE:
Yes, yes. I was born here. This is where my mom and daddy lived since I was born.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Here in Chalmette?
LEE BOE:
In that house right there.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
This one?

Page 22
LEE BOE:
Yeah.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Okay.
LEE BOE:
And after they passed away, I bought the house. This is where I feel like I belong. If we wouldn't be here, we'd be in Bay, St. Louis, which Bay St. Louis is more messed up than this is.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Really?
LEE BOE:
Yeah. Bay St. Louis was always a little getaway place for me, a place that I liked to just go for a weekend or whatever. I had some property in Waveland at one time. I was thinking about having a summer home over there. I was going to sell the house in Arabi and I was going to buy something in Bay St. Louis with that, just to have something else. But all of those plans are shot to hell. Things change.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Do you think you'll still do that down the road?
LEE BOE:
I don't know how it's going to be in Bay St. Louis and Waveland area anymore because if you look around here and you see this is devastated, you look over there, all they'd have is a street and a sidewalk; there's nothing left. Whole neighborhoods, there's just no houses at all. I don't know if you're familiar with Bay St. Louis or Waveland, but it's about a mile from the beach, there's a railroad track. Anything from the beach to the railroad track is not there anymore. Every single home, business, fire station, city hall, police station, everything is gone, I mean just leveled. They got the brunt of the wind and the storm surge too. We got the storm surge and the levees breaking, where they got a lot more because they were east of the center of the storm.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Could you have ever predicted that something like this would happen?

Page 23
LEE BOE:
In the back of your mind, yeah, because in 1965 for Hurricane Betsy, it did flood here, but not to this extent. Back then, I don't even know if they had categories for the storms, but it was similar in strength and there was a break in the levee, but the water wasn't to the extent that this was. I was a child when that happened and that was the day after the storm when the waters rose, but it took two or three hours for the water to rise to get into the house, not five minutes. And there was only like two feet of water in the house and it was only in an isolated area; it wasn't the whole St. Bernard Parish. This area did get it, but plenty didn't. So it wasn't as bad.
And after that, that's when they first put up the steel—I don't know what they call those pilings that they use for levee protection all around the Forty Arpent Canal, it's around St. Bernard Parish and everything, that we thought we were good to go. It was much better than it was before that. Before it was just an earthen levee. It wasn't nothing. It looked like a little ant hill, where this was big, huge pilings sticking six, eight feet out of the top of a new levee. And I guess that's what everybody thought. The levees in this area did not break. They overtopped in lower St. Bernard. That's where some of the water came from that way. In this particular area, it was the water that came from the industrial canal break where there was that nine-hundred-foot levee breach that washed away all of the Ninth Ward. But that's where the water came from here because it came from that direction this way. Like I said, I was here, I seen it. Don't tell me the water came from down below because it didn't.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What do you think about the sort of rumors, at least that I've been hearing, about the idea that maybe someone blew up the levee?
LEE BOE:
What, for this storm? That's not true; it's just not true. There was rumors for that for the hurricane Betsy storm, yeah, which could be, might not have been, I don't know. I was

Page 24
ten years old and I wasn't really into that. But for this, no. You could see the pictures, the newspaper pictures that you had, aerial photographs and anything you could find on the internet, showing you what the levees looked like afterwards and everything. Nobody would have intentionally done that to anybody, not to save any neighborhood or anything like that. There's no way.
Once or twice a week, I take a ride in the different subdivisions that was close to the levee. My nephew lives, you can see the levee from his front yard, and I ride back there to the final street where you can get a good look at the levee and there's activity there every day. You see trucks and bulldozers and trucks with mud and gravel, this, that, and the other things, that there's definitely work going on all the way around. You keep up on the news reports when they tell you that St. Bernard officials feel confident that the levees have been restored as best as possible in the amount of time that they had. It's an ongoing process. It's not going to be a quick fix. It's something that's going to take them thirty or forty years to get right. We just have to pray for some lighter hurricane seasons. I hope that we don't get another direct hit, which this is the only other direct hit we've gotten in forty years.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Really?
LEE BOE:
Betsy was the last one that hit us directly and now this one. So if it's another forty years, I won't be here anyway.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Are you worried?
LEE BOE:
Everybody should be worried, yeah. You have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. They say that now, even a minimal hurricane or tropical storm, you can't stay in this little tin can. So it's going to put a lot of people on the road if anything threatens to come close to us for awhile. I'd say for the next year, through this season, if we get through this season

Page 25
with no problems, by next year there'll be a lot more confidence in everybody. We got through that season. They're still trying to keep up on the levees, doing the repairs that they're supposed to do, that it's going to make it better for us in the long run.
You can't just give up completely. St. Bernard was one of the first places that the people were coming back to. It wasn't a question, "Are we going to rebuild?" We're here, we're going to do it. We're not waiting for this one to give us a flood plan and tell us the elevations and that. There was people back here physically doing things way before any of the stuff that you hear about in New Orleans. The people off of the Seventeenth Street Canal in New Orleans, they wanted to wait and see how this is going to be. Do they have to elevate their home and how much is their flood insurance going to be? Is it practical for them to come back? What are these people doing? Where are they living at now?
I didn't have no choice. My home was almost paid for. I wasn't about to just pick up and throw it away. I had to make a decision: do you want to be here or do you want to relocate? If you wanted to relocate, the SPA would have gave you money that you could buy something. Instead of the money that I'm using to fix this home, you could have relocated somewhere else, but I still would have been left with a mortgage for a house that was worthless, that I'm still going to have to pay one way or the other. So I decided I want to be here. It was nice before; it'll be nice again. Every day there's changes. Every day when you ride around anywhere, you can see different places opening up, businesses. It's slow in getting started. We desperately need a Winn-Dixie or something like that, and definitely a fast food place. A McDonald's or a Burger King is going to make a million dollars the first week they open. The line for that is going to be bigger than the giveaway lines.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Why is that?

Page 26
LEE BOE:
Oh, because people are just stranded here. There's no place to go eat. If you want to go eat, you have to go to Metairie or Slidell. You're a half-hour away either way you look at it. It's not like I can run around the corner and get me some Popeye's Chicken or something because there's no place. A couple places sell sandwiches here and there, but you're used to what you're used to. But that's all going to come back; I know it is.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What are you eating here?
LEE BOE:
Since I only have this little easy bake oven thing, I don't cook anything. I buy all frozen stuff: dinners, pizza, breakfast food, stuff like that. What can you do with something that looks like that? You know, I mean, no, I don't think so.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
It's not much of an oven.
LEE BOE:
No, it's not much of anything. It's like a toy. At first, when we was first given the campers and I got in, I said, "Oh man, this is nice. I like this." I used to have a camper a long time ago and I'm wondering, "What they're going to do with these when they take them back. Are they going to sell them and everything? Because I wouldn't mind buying this." Now, come get it. I don't want it. I'm never going camping again. I don't ever want set foot in a camper, a tent, or anything like that. Been there, done that, don't want it.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What do you think this area is going to be like come August twenty-ninth, this year anniversary?
LEE BOE:
Just a lot of people that are still scared and worried on how the hurricane season's going to be, but I think it's just hard getting through the first year. If we can get through the first year and get through this hurricane season, it's going to bring a lot more people back. There's about one third of the people back so far. We had like sixty-seven thousand people in St. Bernard; we got maybe twenty right now, which is not too bad.

Page 27
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
And what about in ten years?
LEE BOE:
In ten years, it'll bring it back better than what it was before. Because now they can, I don't know, go over what things were wrong with St. Bernard Parish and wipe that stuff out and get a chance to rebuild it and rebuild it right. I think there's a lot of city planners who know things about rebuilding it to know what we want, to let us grow as a parish. Before it was stagnated; there was no growth. A lot of the older, rich people that owned land sat on the land and every other available lot already had something built on it. Well now, those people have passed away and there's a lot of property that's going to be wide open. There's going to be a lot more building. There's going to be a lot of people that was in New Orleans, that's going to relocate in St. Bernard too because you're only five minutes from downtown. It's just going to take some time. It's going to take a lot of time. But within that five- or ten-year period, you wouldn't even know that there was a storm here. That's what I think. You're just looking at how bad it is right now. Once all of the junk is gone, all of the flooded-out cars are gone, all of the campers are taken back, and people are actually living in houses again, it's going to be better. I want it to be better.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
How does a better St. Bernard look to you?
LEE BOE:
Already they have some plans now. They want to build a complex. I don't know if you know what a hippie tent is, that's what they call it, where they have free food and dinners and give away stuff, clothing, and everything. They're located in Arabi on Jidge Perez. That's where they want to build a new medical complex. They want to abandon the hospital that we had, just tear that down completely, don't even fool with that at all. They want to build a new medical complex there and they want to locate like a, I want call it the old folks' home or retirement village or something, that's going to be like in the parking lot of the new hospital

Page 28
and everything, where the people who depend on medical treatment are going to be close by. It's going to be a lot better for them.
Government facilities and everything like that, I'm sure that there's going to be more complexes put up in this area, in St. Bernard. St. Bernard is not just one town. You have Arabi, Chalmette, Marrero, Violet, St. Bernard, Poydras, Yscloskey. It's a lot bigger than you think it is, but Chalmette is like the heart of it, Chalmette and Arabi. That's where the most highest concentration of the population is. The further you go down east, it's more not developed. It's more like fishermen and stuff like that way down. I'm aware of what people think of us when they hear us on TV and that. Well, they think everybody's a shrimp head or something; it's just, it's not like that. We live in normal houses in nice subdivisions like everybody else does. If you choose that part to live in, that's fine, but not everybody is like that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What's your sense of what people think of when they think of St. Bernard Parish, people from outside this area?
LEE BOE:
They think that St. Bernard Parish is the low-lifes that they ran out of the city live in St. Bernard Parish. And the people in St. Bernard Parish think the low-lifes that they ran out of St. Bernard Parish live on the north shore.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
And where's the north shore? What's that?
LEE BOE:
Slidell.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Okay.
LEE BOE:
Across the lake.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Why is that?

Page 29
LEE BOE:
I don't know. That's just the way things are. St. Bernard Parish is probably eighty-five percent white people, maybe fifteen percent black. In these subdivisions here, there are no black people at all. I don't have a problem with that. I'm not prejudiced at all.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
That's just the way St. Bernard Parish has come out?
LEE BOE:
That's just the way St. Bernard always was. That was I guess an appeal to the older generation that never wanted to mix with black people or anything. It's different times now. There's good people and bad people in any race, no matter what.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
You said your parents were from Chalmette, lived here?
LEE BOE:
They lived in New Orleans at first and they relocated here in the early 50s.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
They're from Louisiana?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, they lived in New Orleans.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Okay.
LEE BOE:
My mother was from Uptown. My daddy was from the Ninth Ward.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Okay, and what did they do?
LEE BOE:
My daddy was a vice president for a meat packing company and my mom was just a housewife.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Why did they move out here?
LEE BOE:
To relocate closer to where he worked at, because he worked in Arabi. They was always renters and they had an opportunity to buy and they thought that it would better to own your home than rent one; I believe that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Are most of the houses in St. Bernard, are they owned? Are they owner-occupied?
LEE BOE:
Pretty much, yeah.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What's the relationship like between St. Bernard and New Orleans?

Page 30
LEE BOE:
I would like to say it was good, but I don't think it is. From what we went through from the storm, there was no communication with any other outside parish and it was just like, "Oh, we just thought y'all did okay." Nobody bothered to check on us. It seems like we were just on our own. But our St. Bernard government now is not going to be caught off guard. Just in today's newspaper alone, they're saying that they're stockpiling supplies that are going to be stored on a third floor or in a high building, that they will have supplies, they'll have gasoline, they'll have everything that they need this time. It's not going to happen to us again the way it was. When we was at that jail over there, that's all we had was water; there was no food. So I think that was the main thing why they had to get us out of there as quick as they did, because people would have been dying from that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So has this made the relationship worse?
LEE BOE:
No, I think it made everybody aware that we do need to be in communications with the different parishes, with Orleans Parish, with Plaquemines Parish, with St. Tammany, everything. Everybody needs to work together with us. It's not just you're out for yourself. We're all in this together. You can have one levee break in New Orleans that wiped out St. Bernard Parish at the same time, the same thing for any of the other parishes. It's just if your number's up, it's up. If there's some way we could work together with that, that would be good.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Do you think that's going to come to pass?
LEE BOE:
Oh, I think they're definitely working with the different parishes now.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Working together now?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, a lot more together.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
You had said the other day that your nephew lives across the street.

Page 31
LEE BOE:
Yes.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
And that your brother had lived across the street.
LEE BOE:
My brother lived in twenty-six. I'm twenty-five, he's twenty-six, and my nephew's house is twenty-four: twenty-four, five, and six.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
How did y'all end up here together?
LEE BOE:
Like I said, this was a family home here. I bought this when my mother passed away. My brother lived in Chalmette Circle, which is a couple of blocks away from here, and he had lost a job and he ended up losing his house over there and he was looking for a house to rent. Well, my neighbor from two houses down owned this house across the street and the people just happened to be moving out and I asked him, "J.P., do you want to rent the house?" He said, "Yeah." He said, "You know somebody looking for one?" I said, "Yeah, my brother's looking for one." So he said, "Sure, send him over." They came over, they looked at the house, they liked it. They came out of a house. You can't go from a house to an apartment because you own too much junk; so they moved in there.
The other house that my nephew got, the people who had lived there before, the lady had passed away and the daughter didn't want the house and it sat empty. And when they finally put a "for sale" sign on it, I knew my nephew wanted to relocate because he lived in Violet—or was that Poydras? I'm not sure—that he wanted to be in Chalmette. And I told him, I said, "That little house across the street is for sale. You could probably get it cheap because it's real beat-up and it needs work." And he's a carpenter and contractor on his own and he could fix it up. So he ended up buying it at the right price and he was just in the process of gutting it and redoing it when the storm hit. He was just there yesterday.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So is he coming back?

Page 32
LEE BOE:
Oh yeah. He's in Picayune right now with my sister. My brother-in-law, his brother, his brother's wife, and two kids, they all bought two acres of land and they've just all pitched in together. There's three FEMA trailers on it for right now and my sister and my brother-in-law's building a house on it. They want to stay there, but the other ones, they don't know if they want to go back to their house in St. Bernard. My nephew, the one that has that house, he doesn't want his house that's in lower St. Bernard. He just doesn't want to live there no more. He'd rather be in Chalmette. All his work and everything is up here too.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So is he doing the work on his place on his own then?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, a little bit at a time. It's not like he's desperate to live in it right now. He does have a place that he's staying in. I'm smoking us out, I know that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Oh, I'm fine, doesn't bother me. So he's just doing sort of a day at a time, a little bit here, a little bit there?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, well, I mean he still has to work. So once he works, he can have money to put in his house over here, which he thinks that he'll come back and live there for awhile and maybe sell after that; he don't know. But for now, that's what it is. Everybody likes this neighborhood; it's a nice neighborhood. It's close to everything once it all comes back again.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What else makes it nice?
LEE BOE:
Pretty much the location. Like I said, you're five minutes from downtown. You had three good schools all within walking distance. You had K-Mart, Home Depot, the cinema, everything is like centrally located right around here really in walking distance. Nobody walks, but you could if you wanted to, where if you lived in lower St. Bernard, well, you'd have to get in a car and ride for ten minutes if you were hungry or something like that, where here you had Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Popeye's, Church's, it's all here.

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ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
When people come back to look at their houses and sort of try to decide whether they're going to come back or not, how much of a difference does it make to not have those kinds of businesses there, do you think?
LEE BOE:
I don't think they're worried so much about the businesses because they know the businesses are there to make money. They're going to be back if there's people back. But plenty of the older folks that I see, they're more worried about, "Well, is my next-door neighbor coming back? Or my neighbor that lives across the street, are they coming back?" They're more concerned about that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Yeah, about the community, I guess.
LEE BOE:
I'm back. I want to be back. If I have neighbors, fine; if I don't, that's fine too because I know eventually there will be. If it's not them, it'll be somebody else.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
And that's alright?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, I don't have a problem with that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
For you then, it just was never an option not to come back?
LEE BOE:
Like I said, that first time when I came back and just the initial shock of what everything looked like, I didn't want to at first. But I've had so much time on my hands to think about it, being I'm unemployed, I was living in Ponchatoula for those four months, that I had a lot of time to think of what do I want to do. Am I going to get the financial assistance from the government in any way that's going to help me out of this? Which it looks like it will and I think that I'm going to come out on top because of it. My house will be rebuilt. It will be better than what it was before. As far as me getting a job, I'll get a job. I'm thinking about that a lot more now since I don't have unemployment anymore, but it's going to be okay. I know, I can see that it's going to be okay. It has to be okay for me and I believe it will be. It helps if you do

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have a positive attitude and not just dwell on how awful everything looks right now. Give it a chance, give it a little while, and it's going to come back. The people's spirits are not going to go away.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Tell me about that. People's spirits, what do you mean?
LEE BOE:
It's we love where we live. If you can come back to what this place looked like and want to do something about it, there must be something pretty powerful to want to keep you here than to just pick up everything, what little left that you do own, and plant yourself somewhere else; I don't see that happening. For some people, yeah; for others, no. I guess you hear a bunch of idiots on TV talking just like I do, like, "Why would you want to go back into a place that looks like this big shithole?" And we want to be here. We know that it can come back. When we first came back, there was not a car on the street. Now there's traffic all around. You get stuck in traffic sometimes.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
A big difference.
LEE BOE:
Mmm hmm.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Does it change every day in terms of coming back?
LEE BOE:
There's more people every day. I see more and more businesses opening. I see more and more businesses for rent, that they had the money to start right up and get the remodeling jobs done. I noticed that my dentist that I went to, his office is open. Insurance companies, that's a big place now, a big thing to do with insurances. There's a lot of those that's open now. Pretty soon they're not going to have the FEMA tent, the recovery center over there that's in Wal-Mart's parking lot. That's going to be disbanded pretty soon and you're just going to have to deal with them from wherever their regional location is. I don't think it's in New Orleans; I think it's in Baton Rouge or something like that. But you will just have to deal

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with them by phone or if you had to go up there in person or something. Because I'm sure the people from Wal-Mart want them out of their parking lot so they can reopen their store. Their store was like three months old when the storm hit. It was a brand-new store, one of them Super Wal-Marts that has like everything you can imagine in it.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
You mentioned earlier the "hippie tent." What did you mean by that?
LEE BOE:
The hippie tent? I don't know. That's where at first there was no place to eat when you came back. So there was different places set up. At first it was called Camp Premiere over here by Kaiser.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What was it called?
LEE BOE:
Camp Premiere. It's located in the Kaiser Aluminum St. Bernard port area. They were the first ones set up as a recovery center where the volunteers could go and there was also a big huge cafeteria where they cooked like you wouldn't believe, good, home cooking and everything, and you could go there at one time. When they stopped us from doing that, they set up different places at schools where a bus would come pick you up and bring you over there to eat, which was great as long as it lasted. And after awhile, they decided no, they could only feed just the volunteers and the people who was living at the camp itself, which it closed down two days ago. So June the first was supposed to be the last day for it. I don't know what happens now. The volunteers have no place to stay, which is pretty shitty on their part. These people come down here and did a hell of a job for us and they couldn't manage to find ways to keep that open for them. But there was a couple of other places that would feed you and if you needed clothing or something like that.
So this other place in Arabi, everybody just nicknamed it the "hippie tent" because it's a tent. All of the people that lived there lived in tents and it was the hippie tent. You could go

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there and there would be like an area you could walk through, if you needed groceries, pick up whatever you wanted. If you need clothing, shoes, basic necessity kind of things, you could just go over there and get it. And they cooked three meals a day. You could go over there and just meet with other people and have something to eat. They're relocating too. They think that this area, they've been in this area, I guess, long enough and they want to run them off of there, because that's what I told you where the new hospital and medical facility is going to be built. So they want to get them out of there.
So they're moving them further down in St. Bernard into Violet and they're going to be called "Camp Hope." They're still going to be the hippie tent to us, but that's what they're going to be called now is Camp Hope. And it's, I think, out of a school, a decent facility for them to work out of, which is probably better anyway. There's a large population in lower St. Bernard too and I'm sure those people would like that. They could definitely use it. We'll miss them. It's pretty nice. If you don't feel like cooking anything, you just go up there and get you a free meal.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Did you go over there a lot?
LEE BOE:
Not a lot. At first, yeah, but now it seems like I'm at the house more, trying to do more work. I get up early in the morning and when it gets dark, I'm tired. I work all day just doing something. I can't sit still. I don't get a whole lot done because I'm old and torn-down and everything.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What were you working on today?
LEE BOE:
I was on the front porch today just doing prep work for paint. I got the top part painted, but I wanted to get to the porch. I can only complete a little bit at a time. I'm only one

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person. So I did that today. Tomorrow I have business to take care of. I've got to go the bank, the grocery, the post office, all of that good stuff. I take like one day a week and do that.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Does that take a whole day?
LEE BOE:
Sometimes it does, yeah, a good part of the day.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Where do you have to go for all of that?
LEE BOE:
Usually I go to Metairie. You can go to Metairie or Slidell; take your pick. I see that I am getting a bank back, a Chase Bank finally. There's other banks around that's open, but not my bank. So that'll be good when that opens again. We still desperately need a big grocery store. That'll be a big help to us when that opens.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Yeah. So the closest one now is in Metairie?
LEE BOE:
You could probably find one in New Orleans, but that's just, I got used to going to the Super Wal-Mart and so that's just where I go now, because I'm used to going there, the bank's right around the corner from it, and different places and the food places. And if I'm out that way, well, I'm definitely getting me something to eat out there.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
So now the house, was it blue before and you're painting it blue again?
LEE BOE:
No, I don't like the blue. The blue was on there before. I painted it blue. I'm color blind. I picked that from those little colors on the chart that looked real good on the chart and looked like hell when they're on the house. I call it "waterslide blue."
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Waterslide blue. So what color are you going with now?
LEE BOE:
Do you see those colors on the top?
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Okay.
LEE BOE:
What is that, like cream and beige, or something like that?
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
Something like that.

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LEE BOE:
That's what I'm going with and I'm probably going to follow that through the interior too, earth tones, natural colors.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
What do people say when they see you? Do you have people drive by and stop and talk?
LEE BOE:
Yeah, that's how I met you.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
But neighbors and other people?
LEE BOE:
Sure. I have my neighbors down there by the next trailer. I seen their car was down there this evening and I wanted to get back over there and see what they was doing. And by the time I had a chance to go over there, they was already gone. Those are the ones that was kind of elderly. Like I said, they don't stay long. They come for a little while and then they go.
ELIZABETH SHELBORNE:
They've got a trailer, so does that mean they're coming back?
LEE BOE:
They're going to come back at least to do something with their house. I heard that they bought a house in Slidell and that's where they're staying at now. But same thing, this is their neighborhood. They're one of the original neighbors from the very beginning when the subdivision was built. They raised their family here, so maybe they still want to be here.
END OF INTERVIEW