Skip to main content

Photograph: Visiting with a friend over dinner at Soileau’s in Opelousas. (Photograph by Courtney Jennings.)

Courtney Jennings
Contributing Writer 

Soileau’s Dinner Club was the setting for my most recent meet with St. Landry Now publisher Mrs. Carola Hartley and her husband Tim. This wasn’t a typical meeting, however. I was introduced to her friend and a former colleague from New Jersey, Chris Kline who decided to stop in for a visit. Also joining us was Ms. Wanda Juneau of Back in Time.

Mrs. Hartley, the former Executive Director of Bridgeton Main Street, worked together with Chris Kline during her time living in New Jersey. Kline was also the president of that Main Street organization for some time. During this meeting I learned some things about the town of Bridgeton, including it has the largest National Historic District in New Jersey, and one of the largest in the US. 

Kline talked about some of the Main Street projects he was involved with during his time with Main Street, including one called Paint the Town where he worked to revitalize the facades of about 20 to 30 buildings in Bridgeton’s downtown. That project made a huge impact on the entire downtown community.

Chris spoke to us on the very diverse cultures there are in Bridgeton and entertained us with stories of times spent with the people he would meet and fond memories of interesting encounters. It was quite the visit learning about some of the many places and experiences Chris had living in New Jersey, and while traveling through the US. 

New Mexico Trip Adventure
Kline was camping his way back to New Jersey when he made the trip to Opelousas to visit with the Hartleys. He traveled to New Mexico a few weeks ago to visit with a friend who now lives there. While in New Mexico he experienced a totally different climate, and a totally different culture. He told us how he lived really “off the grid,” as he described it, on a mountain. His time spent there was very different, living with no running water, no bathroom facilities and not much more of the everyday amenities we live with today. However, the living quarters did have electricity that they got from solar powered batteries, and that is how he was able to charge his phone. An interesting note to this is he had some phone service while he stayed on the mountain, but hardly any phone service when he went down into the valley.

Kline also described his adventures on an Elk hunt he made with his friend on the mountain. While on that hunt, the pair came across a party of hunters who were there with their guide. The group had killed a mule deer and had to get the 800 pounds of dear meat down the mountain. That was more than that group of hunters could handle in just one trip. So, Kline and his friend volunteered to help. They cut their hunt short to help carry some of that meat, along with some of the group’s supplies down the mountain.

A Stop in Opelousas
After leaving New Mexico, Kline traveled through other states including Texas and Arkansas on his way to Louisiana. This was Chris’s first time visiting South Louisiana and one thing every out of towner must experience during their visit to the south is the food! Soileau’s did not disappoint, delivering up hearty seafood dishes that were made to order. Chris ordered the Crawfish Bisque and was treated to a lesson on how to tackle the dish consisting of stuffed crawfish heads! When asked what his thoughts were on the meal, he stated that he enjoyed it and it had just the right amount of heat. 

Photograph by Courtney Jennings.

One of the things he was sorry he missed on his visit was Zydeco music and dancing. He said he will consider another visit to Opelousas next September so he can experience the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival.

We enjoyed the visit, the food and the service provided to us by the waitstaff as we were the last to leave the establishment for the evening! We hope Chris equally enjoyed his visit and will have just as an exciting story to bring back home to New Jersey of the people and food experience here in St. Landry Parish. 

Wednesday Morning Tour
On Wednesday morning before he left Opelousas, Kline took a short tour of downtown Opelousas. He made a stop at Le Vieux Village where he toured the Orphan Train Museum. He heard the story of the orphan train and the children that came to Opelousas to live out the rest of their lives, a story he had never heard before. He enjoyed this experience and said he would let folks in New Jersey and other places know about the Orphan Train Museum in Opelousas. While at the village, he made a stop at the office of Tourism and Main Street Director Melanie Lee LeBeouf.

Orphan Train Museum in Le Vieux Village du Poste du Opelousas.

Following that village stop, he made a trip to downtown Opelousas for lunch at Back in Time. When his lunch was done, Chris left Opelousas to continue his camping trip back to New Jersey, with a stop scheduled for Pensacola, FL where he planned to visit with family he has there.