THE HUSSER COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
The Husser Community Organization was established in 1929 to provide the citizens of Husser with an opportunity for education, fellowship and togetherness.
THE EARLY DAYS
The Husser Community Organization was formed in 1929 as part of a “community organization movement” founded by Mary Mims of the Louisiana State University Agriculture Extension Division. The division had hired Mims as its first extension sociologist in 1925 in an effort to begin community organizing work statewide.
According to an article in Louisiana Agriculture detailing Mims’s work in Louisiana:
Mims viewed communities as the “seedbeds of democracy… the hope of the world…a vital part of the mighty machine we call government.” She immediately started a rigorous itinerary – travelling regularly to parishes across the state. Her task was to use extension principles to develop and spread a program promoting the “economic, intellectual, civic, health and recreational life of the community.” Mims also travelled to Denmark to study that nation’s successful plan of community work. Denmark had the lowest levels of illiteracy, poverty and crime of any country in the world at the time. Mims learned how to develop what the Danish called “folk schools” and brought the concept back to America. These informal gatherings encouraged culture, civility, character and principles of good citizenship. The events included group songs, literacy exercises and recreational activities for all ages. “Folk schools” became part of Mary’s overall program and were set up in many parishes.
Mims designed monthly meetings for each community. People began setting definite annual goals, and leaders and committees designed an appropriate course of action for their respective communities. Mims’ efforts brought together farmers, home demonstration clubs, 4-H clubs, government agencies and private organizations in a cooperative relationship. People were encouraged to refurbish their homes, grow gardens and “beautify” public and private properties. Schools, libraries, churches and parks were built. Parades, fairs, orchestras and festivals were established.
ACQUIRING THE OLD HUSSER SCHOOL
On July 2, 1946, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board decided to advertise the sale of the Husser School building and grounds which, according to official board minutes, were “no longer used for school purposes." Worried they would no longer have a place to use as a community center, several highly motivated members of the community set out to purchase the school and property from the school board. Those tasked with acquiring the schoolhouse included Bennie Husser, Rose Husser, and Althes "Red" Husser, with help from others such as Ella Bahm Hughes. This group set out to collect signatures of community members showing support in buying the school.
On August 23, 1946 at approximately 10:00 AM, Bennie Husser, President of the Husser Community Organization, made his way to the Tangipahoa Parish School Board office to place his bid. For the school and two acres of land, Bennie had the last and highest bid; however, he did not have the money on hand to pay the note.
Those involved in the community organization were also parishioners at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, which was one of few churches in the vicinity of Husser. There were a few other churches in neighboring communities, including the New Sharon Baptist Church which was established in 1944 and one African American church at the Union Training School. Father Odilo Alt had arrived in Husser in 1943 as the resident pastor of St. Dominic’s. During his years in Husser, Father Odilo became a very well respected citizen and to some was considered the unofficial mayor of Husser. Progress was important to Father Odilo. He was very involved in most aspects of the community, where he lived for more than twenty years. Father Odilo set out to help the community organization purchase the former school to be used as a community center. Because no one in the community could afford the asking price, Father Odilo held a special second collection during one Sunday Mass with the sole purpose of buying the school. In just one day, the entire cost – a mere $75.00 – was collected.
From 1946 on, the former Husser School was called the Husser Community Center. Father Odilo became a member of the organization’s Community Council, which also included “1 High School Girl – 2 men of the community – 2 women of the community – 2 service men” in addition to the officers. The timing of the acquisition of the school building occurred around the end of World War II, when the Husser Community Organization was also reviving its efforts.
Bennie Husser, president of the organization, gave a report about the organization’s activities leading up to the purchase of the school:
"In February of 1944 when the war began to take shape, or ebb [its] way unto our victory, we began to take inventory of ourselves, our people, and our community. All of our fine young men had answered their call of duty, and soon would be returning “home”. Who would welcome them? How could the community show its appreciation to these returning service men, who so proudly served…? Certainly we appreciated it and decided to do something about it. We called a meeting at the little Green School House, “Husser School” where most of us acquired our very limited degree of education…. We adopted a resolution to revise the organization and hold the regular meetings…once each month. We would provide entertainment for everybody both young and old. We would bring everybody out to these meetings and seek to relieve their minds of the sacrifices…they were called upon to bear throughout the turmoil of war. We would seek to raise funds to defray the little necessary expenses as we went along. We would have a homecoming day for the Service men, in the “School House” which each and everyone of the boys had cherished in his memory as a community landmark while in the fields of duty. The homecoming celebration was held as planned in the school building after the war ended. The Husser Community Organization in 1946 planned or carried out several programs including a community Christmas tree, a baseball team, a band, a fair, and agricultural development in the community."
The old school was a hub of social life in Husser. Even before it closed as a school, community-wide dances, parties, reunions, and showers were held here, as well as Christmas programs and plays. It was one of few places in the area spacious enough for large groups of people; another was the fellowship hall at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church. Plays were often held in the Husser School, especially during the holiday season. At one point, there was even a Miss Husser Pageant.