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December 1, 1998


The Merging of Cultures

Shells on a net at Sidney's. Photo by Sage McCollum. © TOTH 1998.
Interior of Sidney's Restaurant. Photo by Elizabeth Peyregne. © TOTH 1998.
Every once in awhile a person is so good that when bad things happen to them the outcome is positive. In May of 1981, the Peyregnes were awaiting the arrival of their second child when Mr. Peyregne was laid off from a full time job at Corning Glassware. Mrs. Peyregne, my mom, was pregnant with me and unable to work so my dad had to find another job to support his family, hopefully one that provided benefits.

While job hunting the next day, he noticed a "Help Wanted" sign on the door of Crispy Chick, a restaurant in the middle of Bayou La Batre. He went in and asked to speak to the manager, Sidney Irby, who was also the owner. He introduced himself to Mr. Irby and asked if he could have a minute of his time. They sat down and talked. He explained how he had just been laid off and needed a job in the worst way because his wife was with child.

After talking for a few minutes, Mr. Irby told my dad to come back at noon to fill out an application, and pick up a uniform. He also said to be there at six o'clock the next morning ready to work. He gave my father a full time job with benefits when only a part time job position was open.

After a year of working, my dad became manager of the Bayou La Batre store. Thirteen years later he decided to take a leave of absence to work at Lee for better pay and more regular hours. He kept in touch with Mr. Irby and the rest of his family.

When the renewal for the franchise came up, my dad met with the Irby family to discuss the situation. They also owned two other restaurants in Mobile. The Irby's decided to form their own business and name the stores Sidney's after Mr. Sidney Irby.

In the fall of 1995, my dad heard that Mr. Irby was in the hospital, diagnosed with lung cancer. One night we were at home when the phone rang and my dad answered only to find that Mr. Irby had taken a turn for the worse. They called in the family. When his daughter, Jerri, told him that all his kids were there, he told her that one was missing. She called my dad and he left immediately.

From his bedside, Mr. Irby asked my dad to come back to work at the restaurant. So he did, and he has worked for the Irby's ever since that night. But Mr. Irby died that Christmas Eve.

-- Elizabeth Peyregne © 1998

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