From snowstorms to ‘da swamp, North Pole couple defrosts after moving to Montz
Welcome sign to North Pole, Alaska.
In the North Pole, the average temperature is below zero for four months out of the year.
St. Charles Parish is a little warmer.
Gena Lescault, 38, has to assure people all of the time that North Pole, Alaska is a real town. Although they do have Christmas decorations up 365 days a year and a local eccentric who changed his name to Saint Nicholas and dresses in a red pants suit, the family did not live in an igloo or ride dog sleds.
“Everyone has the same misconceptions about Alaska,” she said.
For Lescault and her family, North Pole is simply the place they call home. The home they decided to leave two years ago in favor of southeast Louisiana, where Lescault is originally from.
She grew up in Alexandria, but her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all hail from St. Charles Parish Lescault spent most of her summers from a young age.
“I was pretty much between River Road in St. Rose and Jake’s Towing, where my relatives worked,” she said.
So when she was 15 it came as quite a shock when her mother told her that her stepfather had been transferred from the Air Force base in Alexandria to North Pole.
After spending a few last months in Louisiana while the rest of her family moved ahead of her to the great white north, Lescault made her way up to join them.
“I remember the date. I went up there Nov. 22, 1991,” she said. “It starts snowing up there in September and October. My mom warned me when I got off the plane ‘do not take a deep breath’ but that is the first thing I did. I took a deep breath and I couldn’t catch my breath it was so cold.”
Outside of dealing with the huge climate change, Lescault got along well in Alaska. Most of the kids in the area, like her, were military transplants.
“You are going to an area that is predominantly military so a number of cultures were mixed into one,” she said.
In fact, she came to thrive in the area and ended up spending the next 20 years there. She also met her husband, Daniel, in North Pole. He was a Rhode Island transplant who ended up in the area after joining the Air Force.
The couple liked North Pole so much they ended up staying on even though Daniel was told he would be transferred. By that time the two had children, Elizabeth and Cheyanne, and were ingrained in the culture.
“We thought we were going to end up in California or somewhere and didn’t want that to happen,” Lescault said.
Still a military man at heart, Daniel quit the Air Force and joined the Air National Guard so the couple could stay in North Pole. He eventually ended up back on active duty anyway. It was only when he was nearing retirement that the Lescaults thought about possibly moving. During their time away they had made several trips back to Louisiana and finally decided it was time to get away from the cold.
“Plowing the driveway at 30 or 40 below zero is not fun, especially when you get older and arthritis starts to kick in,” Lescault said.
So about six years ago they started making plans to move to Bayou Gauche.
“We wanted the rural feel still. Where we lived in Alaska, we lived outside of the actual town. We only saw our neighbors in the summer when we were out. We like the rural feeling that we have a place to ourselves,” Lescault said.
Cheyanne, at age 14, entered Hahnville High School and the family assimilated rather quickly.
“(Cheyanne) is good at fitting in because she is good at making friends. For her first year they called her Alaska,” Lescault said.
Daniel has found work as a mechanic, but having lived in a tropical climate, he has trouble with the weather at times. “It is not the heat, but the humidity that gets to him,” Lescault said.
True to form, the family supports the Hahnville High School ROTC program, but lately they have been thinking about North Pole again and maybe going back...at least for a visit.
“I miss the people,” Lescault said.
North Pole is just a different kind of place according to Lescault.
“You can walk into the town and a few minutes later you are like family. You can walk up to a stranger,” she said. “Here you get a little leery around strangers. There no one is going to whip out a gun and shoot you. People wear guns strapped to their hip in the store, but it is because we have bears.
“Here you see possum and armadillos and it is a little pest walking through your yard. But up there the pests are huge...you have a moose walking through your yard with her babies.”
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