And Now You Know: Whatever happened to Bottle Charlie?

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, January 19, 2019

By Mike Louviere


After reading the story last week about the Cow Bayou Hermit, Dale Parish wrote to give a few more details. Dale lived in the area where the hermit lived and walked around looking for his “treasures.”

“We called him “Bottle Charlie.” 

We moved out here in 1961, just as the freeway was opening— it was a mess for a year while crossings were routed to feeder roads and sections of the interstate were opened to connect to new sections.  The school buses had to go across some of these, and by the time that they got out towards Cow Bayou, there were few of us left on the bus (Orangefield). 

The bus that ran the south feeder road from McLewis had the Norwoods and Lawrences on it, and they were all familiar with “Charlie.”  We only saw him from the school bus but saw him as far east as Oswald’s Grocery across from the Christian Truck Stop that closed up as the interstate took traffic away from old 90. 

I think he was banned from the Rockfront Cafe at the corner of old 90 and Tulane Rd.  We understood that he would sometimes go to Oswald’s to sell bottles to Bobby Oswald. 

Kennedy’s Grocery, a couple of hundred yards east of Cow Bayou, which became Spec’s Grocery in ’61 or so was also a trading place.  I remember Mrs. Spec saying that she wanted Mr. Spec to not deal with him because of the odor. 

Rumor from the Norwoods was that every year or so, someone from his family would go down Lawrence Lane and have someone go down to the bayou to fetch him up, and he’d refuse to come home and they’d leave.

I think it was Jug Norwood that told me that he was educated as an engineer, and helped him pass Mr. Chandler’s algebra class at OHS.

My father and Arthur Simpson bought a tract of land that ran south from Lawrence Lane to the bayou, and Arthur told Daddy that they needed to get Charlie off the property else he could make claim to it by adverse possession.  I accompanied them down to his campsite once –I must have been about 14, but he wasn’t there.”

The more comments about the hermit, the more he becomes a “mystery man.”

In my first story, based on Joe Parsley’s 1959 interview, his name was given as Justin Baker. He was said to have worked as a house painter and a sign painter for a railroad for 13 years before he started “walking the roads.”

Recently Terry Manuel told of meeting him and the Hermit said, “call me Dave.”

This latest story by Parish says he was educated as an engineer. It is doubtful that we will ever know his true background or name.

Another mystery is what happened to him. There is no “official” record of his demise. Was his family finally able to retract him from his home in the woods, or did he, like the old soldier, just “fade away?”

Hopefully, someone will have a bit more information about the Hermit and share it. Thanks to those of you who have.

“And now you know.”