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New Orleans Memories

One Writer's City

Carolyn Kolb

Publication Year: 2013

Carolyn Kolb provides a delightful and detailed look into the heart of her city, New Orleans. She is a former Times-Picayune reporter and current columnist for New Orleans Magazine, where versions of these essays appeared as "Chronicles of Recent History." Kolb takes her readers, both those who live in New Orleans and those who love it as visitors, on a virtual tour of her favorite people and places. Divided into sections on Food, Mardi Gras, Literature, and Music, these short essays can be read in one gulp or devoured slowly over time. Either way, the reader will find a welcome companion and guide in Kolb.

In bringing her stories up to date, Kolb's writings reflect an ongoing pattern of life in her fascinating city. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some of these things remembered will never return. Some of the people whose stories Kolb tells are no longer with us. It is important to her, and to us, that they not be forgotten. Kolb, and her readers, can honor them by sharing and enjoying their stories. As Kolb says, "When things fail, when the lights go out and the roof caves in and the water rises, all that remains, ultimately, is the story." This collection of such stories was made with love.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 7-9

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pp. 10-11

This book is a compendium of my own stories and those of many people who were kind enough to share theirs, for which I am grateful. A word of appreciation is due to Errol Laborde, of Renaissance Publishing, L.L.C., for his encouragement and for permission to use my New Orleans magazine columns here. ...

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pp. 11-14

Memories of New Orleans seep through a special atmosphere of the senses. In this city, even the air is different. It hangs about you, lank and sultry. When you see things through this air, they are changed in some way. ...

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Part One: Food

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pp. 15-20

New Orleans has given the American palate a precious gift: a cuisine that has a universal appeal. There are so many good local recipes, and so much available as raw ingredients, that it comes as no surprise that New Orleans is a city obsessed with eating. ...

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Kolb’s Restaurant

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pp. 21-23

We Orleanians have our own memories of Kolb’s, which closed its doors over a decade ago. Judy LaBorde remembers her wedding, held upstairs at Kolb’s, where her little sister Greta, aged about four, entertained guests by singing from atop an upright piano. I, myself, remember the Wiener schnitzel and the red cabbage. ...

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Off the Menu

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pp. 24-28

Like most Orleanians I tend to obsess about food—it is no surprise that when my husband and I go out to eat, just the two of us or with others, we usually spend a lot of time at the table talking about other places we’ve eaten. Try this: next time you eat out in New Orleans, be quiet a minute and listen to the other tables— ...

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pp. 29-33

Besides eating in restaurants, Orleanians have always eaten well at home. New Orleans recipes, the classic ones, rely on simple, local ingredients. Some of them, even in the city, you could find in the backyard: gardens had herbs and vegetables like tomatoes and peppers and mirlitons (chayotes). ...

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Grocery Memories

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pp. 34-38

Sitting at the computer and using the Internet to “make groceries” is possibly the most joy-killing use of technology since the admission of cell phones to restaurants. ...

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pp. 39-43

Orleanians know that there is one culinary staple our local cuisine requires: French bread. And it has to be the kind with the crispy crust and the light interior, the kind you can squash down on a poor boy, or hollow out for an oyster loaf, the kind that soaks up the butter and garlic until it turns ooze-ie yellow when you make garlic bread. ...

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Montalbano’s: Home of the Roma Sandwich

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pp. 44-48

The muffuletta is the other iconic New Orleans sandwich— and Leidenheimer makes a bread for this one, too. The muffuletta also represents another culinary ancestor of New Orleans cuisine: Italy (more properly, Sicily). Today most Orleanians have spaghetti and red gravy with meatballs as a normal family meal, ...

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Hubig’s Pies

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pp. 49-52

In New Orleans you would often see a rack or a box of these little desserts near the checkout counter—including in hardware stores. If there is a preferred dessert for New Orleans construction workers, it’s the Hubig’s Pie. Since the bakery burned in a disastrous fire in July of 2012, hungry Orleanians eagerly await their speedy return, ...

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pp. 53-57

Pecans nowadays most often appear in neat clear packages of shelled nutmeats. Orleanians also can encounter pecans underfoot, since the city is still dotted with the trees. Before Katrina, the wide neutral grounds by the University of New Orleans had huge pecan trees, their limbs sheltering a crowd of bent-over pickers when the annual crop hit the ground. ...

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Beulah Ledner and Doberge Cake

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pp. 58-62

Doberge cakes are a New Orleans tradition and fantastic sweet dessert. There is something incredibly celebratory about having a birthday cake in so many, many layers. I am one of those who can never decide whether I like the chocolate, or the lemon, or the caramel doberge best. ...

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Nectar Ice Cream Sodas

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pp. 63-66

You know that sound you make when you suck on a straw and there is nothing left at the bottom of the glass? In my family we called that the “drugstore blues” (and you weren’t supposed to make that rude noise, either). Well, when there is nothing left of your nectar ice cream soda, you have good reason to be blue. ...

Food Bibliography

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pp. 67-70

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Part Two: Mardi Gras

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pp. 71-78

Mardi Gras is such an intrinsic part of every Orleanian’s inner calendar that, for those who are away from the city in the first quarter of the year, life seems unbalanced. Why isn’t this coffee cake ring decorated in purple, green, and gold? How come no one is drinking out of garishly decorated plastic cups? ...

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Gallier Hall

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pp. 79-82

From the beginnings of the Rex parade, dignitaries and city officials have watched the floats pass in front of Gallier Hall, once our city hall, on St. Charles just across from Lafayette Square. ...

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Light Up the Night: Flambeaux Carriers

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pp. 83-87

Back in New Orleans in the immediate post-Katrina era, there were large areas of the city that had no lights at night. When we would drive through those neighborhoods, especially in the older parts of town near the river, the city had a special, spooky charm. ...

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Hot to Trot: Mardi Gras Horses

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pp. 88-91

Another old-fashioned part of Mardi Gras that is still with us is the use of four-footed animals. From mounted parade riders to mules pulling floats, Mardi Gras is still running on horsepower. ...

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pp. 92-96

Every one of us has a favorite Mardi Gras memory—mine involves the year we wore monk’s robes and had “church keys” around our necks—and, while that was memorable, it wasn’t something to build a future career on. ...

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Virgilians: The First Super Krewe

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pp. 97-101

The Virgilians are the stuff of Mardi Gras memories—the krewe dissolved some years ago, but it is still fondly recalled. A Virgilians ball invitation was something to be prized— and you had to be a truly hard-core ball aficionado to sit through one of their lengthy extravaganzas. I admit, I never attended Virgilians. ...

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Bourbon Street Bounders

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pp. 102-104

One happy Mardi Gras memory for me was the day-long parties in the French Quarter. In college, one fraternity got the L.S.U. and the Tulane chapters together each year and rented a huge space just off Bourbon Street. My husband and I were once in a group that rented the old American Legion Hall on Royal Street, ...

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Fit for a Queen: The Town and Country Shop

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pp. 105-109

It used to be said that, because of Mardi Gras, New Orleans had the highest per capita champagne consumption in the country. That may or may not be true. But I would suspect that New Orleans is one of the last places where ladies might still have a pair of kid gloves, opera length (that goes all the way up your arm) in their armoire. ...

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Mardi Gras Ball Music: The Big Band Sound

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pp. 110-114

The big Mardi Gras balls, especially in the old-line krewes, always depend on a dance band, actually an orchestra, for their music. After the dancing begins, you hear a special bouncy beat that seems to vaguely satisfy all ages of dancers. ...

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Glad-U-Kum to Mardi Gras: The Jerusalem Temple

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pp. 115-119

For years, the big Mardi Gras balls were held in the Municipal Auditorium on Rampart Street. When the auditorium closed and was used as a casino until Harrah’s moved to Canal Street, ball-goers became accustomed to going to hotels. ...

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The Mardi Gras Coalition

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pp. 120-124

If I had to pick one pivotal Mardi Gras, it would have to be the one right after the 1969 film Easy Rider. Granted, the French Quarter is always going to be crowded at Carnival time, and young people were expected to join in. But no one could have predicted the huge numbers of kids who turned up. ...

Mardi Gras Bibliography

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pp. 125-130

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Part Three: Literature

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pp. 131-136

New Orleans, as a setting or as a topic, has never left any writer at a loss for words. Probably since my earliest days, lying on the floor looking at the Young People’s Page in the Times-Picayune, I have been reading things written in or about this city. ...

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Frank Yerby and Marcus Christian

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pp. 137-141

Frank Yerby’s novels always provide a good, page-turning story. The books may not be great works, but they are good reads. I grew up sneaking into the adult section of the public library, and these books were magnets for a teenaged reader. I knew nothing about Yerby himself, but knowing more about him makes him more interesting. ...

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Frances Parkinson Keyes and Crescent Carnival

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pp. 142-147

When, as a teenager, I first met Estelle Lenoir Fontaine, Frances Parkinson Keyes’s heroine in the 1945 novel Crescent Carnival, I thought she was the most romantic, saddest heroine I had ever known. On rereading the book, I decided she had no gumption at all and just needed a good dose of courage. ...

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The New Orleans Item

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pp. 148-151

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries New Orleans was a big newspaper town—there is even a section of Camp Street between Lafayette Square and Poydras that used to be called newspaper row for the number of papers published there. ...

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Roark Bradford

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pp. 152-155

Any discussion of the good old days of New Orleans journalism would have to bring in the name of Roark Bradford. In the French Quarter of the 1920s he provided a measure of literary excitement in the city, and he and his wife, Mary Rose, were known as fun-loving party-givers extraordinaire. ...

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Jill Jackson

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pp. 156-159

Jill Jackson was a New Orleans native who began her career here and was the first female sportscaster in America. She was still a Hollywood gossip columnist into her nineties, and she boasted a namesake salad on the menu at Brennan’s—you just can’t get much more famous than that! ...

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John Chase

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pp. 160-163

Patrons checking out books at the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library need never be bored. There, on the wall in front of them, stretches a giant mural, sixty-three feet long and ten feet high, a cartoon map of Louisiana with illustrations telling the history of the area, the culture of the region, ...

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2900 Prytania Street

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pp. 164-168

In a city like New Orleans it shouldn’t seem strange that you might find yourself living in what was once the home of a famous writer. I am fortunate: that has happened to me twice. ...

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Deconstructing the Big Easy

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pp. 169-172

Tracking the term “the Big Easy” provides a happy, if rambling, stroll through New Orleans memory—the way following a walking club on Mardi Gras Day can give you a skewed city tour. ...

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The Basement Book Shop

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pp. 173-176

Just across Broadway from the old Newcomb College campus, at 7221 Zimple Street, there long stood a vacant yellow building. It was only one room wide, maybe three rooms deep, and had a few weatherboards missing. There was little to hint that this was once a major literary mecca of the South. ...

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Panic in the Streets Remembered

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pp. 177-180

In New Orleans we are getting a little blasé about the movies. Because of some smart tax laws, the state has a big-time film industry. Just last month, I could walk around the corner from my house and see Harrison Ford between takes in a science fiction production. ...

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The Times-Picayune: An Elegy

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pp. 181-186

In late May of 2012, New Orleans was dealt a tremendous blow: the owners of our newspaper suddenly decided that we no longer needed a daily paper and could make do with a three-day-a-week one. The plan was to go into effect later in the year. ...

Literature Bibliography

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pp. 187-192

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Part Four: Music

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pp. 193-199

If I tried to think of something that was enjoyable, that always brought a smile to my face, and in which I had a continuing interest, there’s no doubt in my mind: it would be New Orleans jazz. ...

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Tulane’s Jazz Archive

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pp. 200-204

“A lot of times people take the present for granted; they only think the past is important,” said Eleanor Ellis. “But Dick Allen knew it wasn’t going to go on forever.” ...

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New Orleans Dance Halls

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pp. 205-208

Neighborhood dance halls used to dot the city, offering live music, no cover charge, and a nice choice for a night out on a budget. If I had a favorite dance hall, it would have been Munster’s—we used to go on Saturday nights, and Tony Fougerat (with his Kings of Poverty band) had a constantly changing program that kept you on your feet. ...

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Feet First: Male Dancers

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pp. 209-213

Few other cities prize the ability to dance as much as New Orleans does—everyone, male or female, is expected to be able to take to the dance floor at the slightest provocation. It isn’t surprising that a number of Orleanians are good enough for the big leagues, that is, skilled enough to be professionals. ...

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The B Sharp Music Club

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pp. 214-218

One of the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the destruction of Pontchartrain Park, a 1950s-era subdivision built near Lake Pontchartrain for New Orleans’s African American middle-class families. In 2003, I had met one of the residents, Elise Dunn Cain, when I was researching the B Sharp Music Club. ...

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Werlein’s For Music

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pp. 219-223

I was an occasional Werlein’s customer. You could always find guitar strings, sheet music, and concert tickets. If you are going to have a musical city, you have to have supplies for the musicians. And having a one-stop shop for instruments, repairs, and even lessons was certainly important to New Orleans’s musical heritage. ...

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New Orleans Opera Stars

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pp. 224-227

Barbara Faulkner Bernard (1958), Lavergne Monette (1960), Shirley Verrett (1961), Natalia Rom (1979), Jeanne-Michelle Charbonnet (1990), and Elizabeth Futral (1991)—all of these opera singers have New Orleans ties, and all of them enhanced their singing careers through the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a program dating from 1954. ...

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The Dancing Preisser Sisters

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pp. 228-231

I knew nothing about the Preisser Sisters, a Ziegfeld Follies dance act from New Orleans, until I was working on my master’s thesis at the University of New Orleans. My topic was Harry Hopkins, famed for his Depression-era work with the Works Progress Administration. Hopkins spent World War I with the American Red Cross in New Orleans. ...

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The Jazz Magnet

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pp. 232-235

New Orleans has long been a magnet to musicians. A Swede, a Briton, and a onetime New Yorker—Lars Edegran, Clive Wilson, and Bruce Raeburn—have all brought their considerable talents to New Orleans, and traditional jazz is the better for their efforts. ...

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“Doc” Souchon

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pp. 236-239

When you hear the gravelly recorded voice of Edmond “Doc” Souchon singing “If Ever I Cease to Love,” the Mardi Gras anthem, you can tell it comes from the heart, and you can readily believe that the happiest man in New Orleans on Carnival Day, 1949, was most likely that singer. ...

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Piano Bars

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pp. 240-243

There is something special about a piano bar. First, as music historian Jack Stewart notes, the piano really gets the patron’s attention. “The piano is the entertainment—they turn off the television.” ...

Music Bibliography

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pp. 244-250


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pp. 251-264

E-ISBN-13: 9781617038839
E-ISBN-10: 1621039773
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621039778

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • New Orleans (La.) -- Description and travel.
  • New Orleans (La.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Kolb, Carolyn, 1942- -- Homes and haunts -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
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