Tour guides: Dave Roberts (Part 2)

Proteus Carnival Parade (photos by: Kevin Korson)

I met Dave in 1997 when we were both tour guide hopefuls. We were tagging along on a French Quarter tour, trying to take the knowledge we had learned from tour guide training classes and blend it into the complicated logistics of leading a tour.

On a daily basis, tour guides must weave the complex stratagem of touching on hot topics like slavery or Confederate history for tourists who alternately embrace or abhor “political correctness.” Dave and I are quite different in our tour guiding approach. For starters, on his father’s side his family has been in Louisiana since the 1770s, and on his mother’s side, the 1880s. At Morning Call in the Oaks, I asked Dave, “What school you went to?”

Well, of course in New Orleans [New OAR-linz], when we say, “What school you went to?” we mean high school. I went to Rummel. I went to Archbishop Rummel High School, and I was in the first graduating class in 1966. That was 50 years ago. I went from Sacred Heart and St. Anthony on Canal Street to St. Dominic’s in Lakeview. Back in 1958, I went to St. Louis King of France in Bucktown when it really was Bucktown…to Rummel High School when it started in 1962.

Dave’s vocal cadence is quicker than one might assume a New Orleanian’s would be, yet full of the warmth and charm that gives away his Midcity, Catholic upbringing. He went on and got his undergraduate degree from Loyola in 1970 and finished coursework for a Master’s at the University of New Orleans, but did not graduate.

Where I almost always go for the joke, the inherent ambiguities in New Orleans society and traditions, Dave draws from centuries of family history and a lifetime of personal experience to go to the heart of what makes NOLA as it is. At the same time, Dave and I both share important common ground. We took the professional tour guide course at Delgado Community College, and share a few mentors.

Part 3: Professional guides

Editor’s Note: This story is one of a series reprinted from the book A Guide to South Louisiana: Stories of Uncommon Culture. Each author was a student in Rachel Breunlin’s “Storytelling and Culture” course for the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans in the Spring of 2017. The Neighborhood Story Project sponsored the project as part of its mission to publish collaborative ethnography in high quality books in which the authors receive royalties for their creative labor.


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