New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Mardi Gras

Out here in the hinterland of SW LA, it was a gorgeous day for the Sacred Feast of St. Mawdi Graw. Lake Charles had a few parades over about 4 days; one even has little bitty floats. Dey do whut day ken. Didn't make it to parade yesterday, because the clothes broke, and I was playin' House Doctor all day. The dryer wasn't the problem, but the twenty feel or so of exhaust vent, which was full of lint, acorn shells, and bird's nests. Anyway, those who went tell me it was fun, except for the drunks. Well, drunks happen. Word on the street is that the place to be in Eunice, one of the linchpins of the Ville Platte-Eunice-Mamou metroplex. They have a big time in all the little country towns around here, starting their chicken runs early in the morning. Costumes tend not to be a recognizable entity or thing, like Cleopatra or a six-pack, as they are in N.O. They are more like brightly-colored clothes, with "fringe" attached in horizontal rows. The fringe isn't the stuff you buy at Wal-Mart, but strips of fabric which they cut with scissors. The dunce-type caps are de rigueur (sic) and they usually make their masks out of screen wire embellished with all kinds of stuff. The effect is indeed striking. After up to a hundred people ride dey hawses all over snatching up chickens, etc., they head back into town, make a monster batch of gumbo, and proceed to have them a fais do do. I sort of like that idea better than the N.O. wannabees, which is how it seems in the bigger towns. Hope ya'll had a ball yestady, and aren't suffering too much for it today! Me, I'm going to play every Pete Fountain CD ah own today!
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Anutha thing! They have a number of krewes in Lake Charles, which is nice. But some of them require formal dress only if you are going to be downstairs on the floor at the ball. If you stick to the balcony, you can go casual--and some of them will even let anybody in for $5 admission!!! This is preverse, and probably the reason I prefer the idea of the chicken runs and fais do dos!
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I saw a story and picture in the paper (da Times-Picayune) about the Cajun tradition of the chicken chase. Although I've know about this for years I was wondering if now-a-days they actually use those poor creatures in the Gumbo.

Somehow I can't picture new millenium Cajuns wringing necks and plucking feathers and all that gore. Do they use the chickens they catch or do they get em from Winn-Dixie or Sav-a-Center or wherever? And if they don't use the ones they catch, what do they do with them.

Also, do the neighbors leave out certain unwanted chickens to be "caught"?

These questions probably sound silly, but I'd really like to know.
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ya heah a siren and your first thought isn't, gee, somebody's house is on fiyah or sumbody's having a hawt attack. Ya first thought is PARADE!!!!!!!!!!!!
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My mother talked about Carnavul Day. I don't remember ever hearing her say "Mardi Gras". It was all Carnavul, which ended on "Carnavul Day".
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Wit' us it wuz Mahddie Grah!!! My mama grew up in da countree and da Mahddie Grah wuz somethin' you treaten'd your kids wit' if dey didn't act rite. Like a Boogey Man!!
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Our aunts, who were old enough (really!) to be our grandmothers, used to use "Mardi Gras" to refer to maskers, too. They were N.O. born and raised, but out here in SW LA, in the little country towns, the people who do the gumbo runs are still called by that name.
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Some of ya tawked about old Mardi Gras memories. I'm hopin' we can tell the world that OUR Mardi Gras has NOTHING to do with all that ridiculously lewd stuff the tourists brought in and the media exploited to the point that many people think that's all there is to our cherished tradition.

Some of ya' already did this. But for "website purposes" it would make it easier for me to start a new "article" on this specific topic.
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You are correct. The tourists, and some locals, have turned what was once a family oriented day into something else. There was always some "adult" entertainment in the quarter, BUT, it ended there. Now Susie from Syracuse, who wouldn't dare do it at home, is showing her self to the world. It has even spread to Metry.

Unfortunately, as the Port and Oil went away, tourisim became our chief industry. The Aquarium and D-Day museum are nice, but don't generate real jobs. The Convention Center is wonderful (for the conventioneers) and has helped convert the old Warehouse district into an endless sea of hotels with more minimum wage jobs. WE have to tolerate the tourists because quite frankly they pay the freight.

I enjoy the female anatomy as much as anyone, but the "showing" craze has truly degraded our wonderful Car-ni-vul.
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I certainly remember it! I remember being in the heart of the French Quarter as a child...it was wild and fun and crazy, but no where near what it is now. It's a shame that we natives have to put up with the junk the tourists bring with them. My family had been residents of the Quarter since the 1700's and it's a shame we can't bring out own kids down there to celebrate the way our ancestors did. I'm thrilled my parents have home movies from the 50's of Mardi Gras in the quarter and on Canal street...even night parades, so I can show my kids "real" Carnival.
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My Mardi Gras growing up was all family. We met on the steps of the old Main Library by Lee Circle, brought lunch and stayed there through the Rex parade and some of the trucks. I had a homemade costume most years. Later as an adult I took my children on upper St. Charles. It seems to me that New Orleans families celebrate a far different Mardi Gras then the one talked about in the media. Old St. Roch Gal
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- What Mardi Gras costume that you wore stands out most in your mind? I had a pink antebellum (a.k.a., "old-fashioned lady") dress which my mom made about 1959 or 1960, when I was about 9 years old. Every Saturday she and her sisters would hit two or three of the numerous cemeteries in which various family members were buried, but always St. Joseph (#2?) on Washington Ave. They almost always had fresh flowers from their gardens for the graves, and of course, the old ones would have to be thrown away. Almost every week the dumpsters also contained dead floral arrangements from fairly recent funerals, most of which still had the ribbon bows on them. Since nothing else except the defunct flowers went into the dumpsters, the ribbons were almost always clean. They were brought home, washed and ironed and carefully rolled and saved. Mama thought it would be fetching to gather the pink ones, of which they had the greatest number, and sew them onto a pink satin bodice (I don't remember clearly, but she may even have broken down and bought the fabric for that), and so adorn my roly-poly body. The first length of ribbon was gathered into a ruffle and sewn along the bottom of the bodice, the next one gathered onto that, and so on, making each layer successively fuller and fuller. What she didn't take into account was that floral ribbon, what we would call craft ribbon today wasn't ever intended to take the stresses of being worn by an actual human being. When I got out of the car at our parade squatting ground on St. Charles, it was clear that there were the beginning of an inevitable structural collapse. Ruffles separated from ruffles, loops of pink ribbon dangling all over the place--by noon it was bad enough that we gave up, took the dress off (the slip was heavy cotton constituted more coverup than Britney Spears has had in the past 3 years!) and with a sweater it saw me quite nicely through the rest of the day. There were lots of other terrific costumes, one of the best being a cowgirl outfit when I was about 3, made from tan flannel with green sequin horseshoes on the vest and real cowboy boots contributed by Uncle Jake, light blue colonial lady dress, etc., but that pink ribbon number is the one which never fails to bring a smile.
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For the life of me, I can't remember one single Mardi Gras costume from my childhood - though of course, I wore 'em. Living away for many years now, I haven't been to Mardi Gras in ages. I wonder how it's changed. Well for one thing, I don't remember this French Quarter thing that I've been hearing about where women flash their "chests" (as Archie Bunker would say) for beads. But anyway, a family-style Mardi Gras existed more outside of the French Quarter. Canal Street, St. Charles Avenue, etc. I just remember it was a special, magical day to a child.
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The Indian costume. Mine was red and I think my sister had a green one. It was costume satin, complete with homemade headdress. The feathers in the headdress were very nice, full feathers and since they came from my aunt's chicken yard, I can't help but think now about some poor duck who was probably not very fast on his web feet, missing a few prime wing feathers for that caper.
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I had a number of different ones, but my mom and dad were always in Drag....
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I only remember 2 costumes from childhood. The most recent is the cowgirl circa 1962--which I'm guessing is from the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans era because I also remember starting school at that time with a brand new Roy Rogers Nifty Binder (or was it simply one of those notepads with the brown pulpy paper that was real hard to write on with a pencil but absorbed lots of ink if using a "cartridge pen"?).

Wait a minute! Dale & Roy were married in the 40's or 50's, right?
So why was Dale Evans not "Dale Rogers"? They were so wholesome--a personification of the American Dream. And she kept her maiden name? Interesting.

The first costume I remember--Andy Panda--who knows what that was about--except that I loved it (a photo shows me holding the plastic mask as well as the bangs I cut for myself when I was around 6 years old. Not a pretty sight.
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I know what you mean about family style Mardi Gras. I didn't go the quarter on Mardi Gras until I was in college and dating a guy from New Jersey who just HAD to go to Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras. I think we went one entire block before he had enough and we left and walked back to St. Charles. I had a conversation yesterday with two native Tulsans yesterday about Mardi Gras...of course they thought everyone ran around topless and in G-strings.
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I know what you mean about family style Mardi Gras. I didn't go the quarter on Mardi Gras until I was in college and dating a guy from New Jersey who just HAD to go to Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras. I think we went one entire block before he had enough and we left and walked back to St. Charles. I had a conversation yesterday with two native Tulsans yesterday about Mardi Gras...of course they thought everyone ran around topless and in G-strings.

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by mentioning you had a photo of yourself in costume. Now I remember there are a couple of photos of myself at Mardi Gras - VERY young - in sort of a little antebellum dress with matching bonnet. I must have been in an ornery mood that day because I'm scowling in both photos - a sort of "I don't want to be in this get-up and I don't want to have my picture taken" face. In subsequent years, I did enjoy Mardi Gras, however!
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Roy Rogers and Dale were hot right through the fifties, as far as I can remember, so it could have been anywhere through there. Davy Crockett continues to be The Man for me to this day. Finally got to the Alamo last fall, and it is, indeed, hallowed ground.
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