On Mardi Gras day of 1959, I walked from Constantinople Street and St. Charles down to the States-Item newsroom on Lafayette Square to file a story on the truck-floats, my first Carnival assignment. Along the way I’d been hailed by a high school classmate who — unknown to me — had rented an apartment with a balcony on the avenue.
After spending a couple of hours being wined and dined there, I hit the street again, took a brief rest and more refreshments inside a big truck parked just off the corner by police reporter Bert Hyde, and finally arrived at the office to write the story.
That done, I then headed on foot to the Quarter, joined up with some friends, and showed off the engagement ring given to me the evening before by a New Orleans native who, sadly, had to work that day.
Thirty or so years later my husband — he of the diamond solitaire — and I entertained a couple from Delaware and, wearing four matching purple, green and gold clown outfits I had specially made for the occasion, took a Mardi Gras day stroll on St. Charles from just below Jefferson Avenue to the Quarter.
I can’t remember taking a local walk even half that far for at least a dozen years. All my lengthy perambulations of recent days have been around big cities on foreign shores or from one end to the other of a large cruise ship and, despite my normally sedentary lifestyle, I’ve been up for them. Maybe it’s the excitement, the adrenalin.
But that adventurous high can also keep you stepping briskly on a Mardi Gras day excursion on St. Charles; it may be time for another for us. There’s nothing like it when the weather is sunny and warm.
The avenue at Louisiana, the site of my father-in-law’s florist shop, was our headquarters in the ‘60s when our son and daughter were small. We loaded our lunch into the big cooler where the flowers were kept and headed out to the neutral ground, a spot from which you could see the Rex parade coming and going. Louisiana avenue was the point at which the floats turned and headed to Canal Street.
It was there one year that the father of the family who had joined us tore the back out of the pants of his costume on the ladder his kids were sitting on. Who cared? Nothing shocking was showing, so the party went on.
Then we were invited to spend Mardi Gras day at the Carroll Apartments at Jackson and St. Charles and did that for several years. The kids were in their early teens and hadn’t yet been granted their “Carnival independence,” and good times were had by all the family.
By the time our Carroll friend had decided to move, newspaper friends had bought a house in Broadmoor and invited us to annual Mardi Gras day crawfish boils. We would set up on Napoleon to watch the truck-floats roll by, making that our viewing standpoint until they left to live in River Ridge and other friends beckoned to Julia Row. We were back on St. Charles — albeit in a different spot.
This Tuesday the Julia Streeters will be traveling, and it may be time for a walk again since we are promised bathroom privileges in at least two locations on St. Charles. I won’t be stepping as high as I did 55 years ago, but that’s life and I’m pleased to still have some.