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Top 10 Best of New Orleans in the Fifties

Updated on December 20, 2014
naturegirl7s profile image

Louisiana has many unique sites and interesting places to visit. Yvonne enjoys sharing her knowledge of local history, customs and events.

Jackson Square
Jackson Square

Growing Up in 1950s New Orleans

I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1950s and it was like a different world from the New Orleans of today. There was an almost magical quality to the city. Just think about it. We had Audubon Park, Pontchartrain Beach, Mardi Gras, Canal Street, the French Quarter and the Tulane Sugar Bowl Stadium. And you could get to all of them for only 7 cents and a transfer on the Streetcar. There were dances every Thursday through Saturday night and the music from the local artists was the best. If you wanted to breathe fresh air or do some fishing, the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were only a short drive away.

I can't think of a better place to live during that time. Here are some recollections about my top 10 most favorite places and events of New Orleans in the 1950s.

New Orleans in the 50's - the 10 Best Things

Fat's Domino - Walkin to New Orleans

Audubon Park

Routine visits to the Audubon Park Zoo were always one my Mom's favorite excursions. We would feed the animals and learned the names of each. She took all of us to the park in the afternoons and on weekends and outdoor activities were practically a daily occurrence.

I knew every inch of the park, from the fountain on St. Charles Ave. to the hatcheries behind Monkey Hill. When I enrolled at St. Francis of Assisi, each day I rode through the park to State street. After school, I would stop in the park to play. By then I knew everyone who worked in the park and would help throw fish to the seals and help feed the barnyard animals in the zoo.

As I got older, during the summer, we began spending a lot of time at the Audubon Park Pool (25 cents or a turtle from the lagoon sold to Ott's Pet Shop). Girls would take the bus from all over New Orleans to swim in the largest public pool in the South. After swimming we'd go to the concession stand across from the pool, eat, play the jute box and dance.

Pontchartrain Beach

Zephyr Roller Coaster at Pontchartrian Beach
Zephyr Roller Coaster at Pontchartrian Beach | Source

The jingle, "At the beach, at the beach, at the Pontchartrain Beach" always runs through my mind when I reminisce about all the good times I had there. It was an amusement park, right on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. There was also a picnic area at the Old Beach, where we could swim and play my portable record player and dance. Pontchartrain Beach would sponsor WTIX and WNOE nights at the beach. This is where Mike and I first saw Elvis in person in 1956, as well as meeting Bob Denver (Maynard G. Krebs) and Michael Landon (little Joe Cartwright).

The Fun Houseboat ride was a great place to take a date because it was dark and they would get scared and cling to you.

Nostalgic N'Awlins Jingles
Nostalgic N'Awlins Jingles | Source

Pontchartrain Beach Remembered

Mardi Gras

Rex King of Mardi Gras 1983
Rex King of Mardi Gras 1983 | Source

Mardi Gras was unbelievable during those years. Every year the family's Mardi Gras headquarters was Grandpa Candilora's beauty salon in the Legerende Building on Barrone St., just across from the old Roosevelt Hotel and half a block from the Canal Street parades. Mom would always cook lots of delicious food that we enjoyed between the parades. She loved to laugh and celebrate before Lent, but always took the family to get ashes at mass on Wednesday.

Mardi Gras Indian
Mardi Gras Indian

Mardi Gras Ornaments for the Tree

New Orleans Celebrates

Christmas and Mardi Gras are my two favorite holidays. There are many New Orleanians who like to combine the two holidays by decorating the Christmas tree with purple, green and gold garlands and ornaments. These trees are often left up through Mardi Gras.

Here are some by Lalagniappe, that we created for the season.

Canal Street

Source

Before the malls, Canal Street was the mecca of shopping in New Orleans. All the best stores were there and their windows were decked out for every holiday, but especially for Christmas. Masion Blanche usually had the most elaborate Christmas displays with animated figures and of course, Mr. Bingle. The Roosevelt Hotel was also located downtown and still makes its lobby a winter wonderland each holiday season.

Ain't Dere No More - Benny Grunch and the Bunch

Unfortunately, most of the stores that shoppers of the 1950s frequented on Canal Street have closed or moved to the malls in the suburbs. Benny Grunch and the bunch created this hilarious song about the problem.

The Dances and the Music

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pete FountainPete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking ClubIrma Thomas Queen of Soul at the Roosevelt Hotel
Pete Fountain
Pete Fountain | Source
Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club
Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club | Source
Irma Thomas Queen of Soul at the Roosevelt Hotel
Irma Thomas Queen of Soul at the Roosevelt Hotel | Source

As a teenager, I continued meeting my friends in the park after school and we started going to the Sacred Heart (Saturday nights) and St. Anthony dances (Sunday nights). In addition, there was Germania Hall, Metairie Lodge, the Swamp Room, the Anchor Inn, La Casa's, and Rockery's. Dancing and music was a major part of my teenage life and I continue to enjoy it today. The music back then was all about love and most of it made you want to dance to the beat.

Some of the talented New Orleans artists that I enjoyed listening to were Irma Thomas, the Neville Brothers, Fats Domino, Louis Prima, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Lloyd "Mr. Personality" Price and Ernie Kado.

Louis Primo - Lazy River

The French Quarter

Royal and Governor Nichols
Royal and Governor Nichols

The French Quarter always called to young men in search of adventure and I was no exception. In June, just before our freshmen year, I slept over at my friend, Alvaro's, house. After his mother went to sleep, Alvaro snuck her car keys out of her purse, and we pushed her Ford down Constance to State Street then drove down Magazine to the French Quarter to see what all the older guys were talking about.

Red Car on Canal Street

Source

We parked on Canal Street and had only walked two blocks down Bourbon St., peeking in the doors and laughing like the 14 year olds we were. I imagine we were sticking out like sore thumbs when two juvenile detectives drove by (Bourbon St. was open to traffic then). They yelled to us and as we looked, before we knew what happened, the car doors flew open and they grabbed us by the arms and asked what we were doing down here at this time and where were our parents. We pretended to be older, but I guess our Elvis hair styles weren't enough.

Before long we were at a pay phone and the detective was asking Dad where his son Al was. He told them I was sleeping at a friend's house and gave him the phone number. The detective told Dad that someone wanted to talk to him. He then handed me the phone and instructed me to tell my Dad where I was. If I ever hated doing something - that was it.

The G-Men drove us back to Alvaro's house after asking Dad to call her then meet them there. Boy, she really let us have it. Then Dad arrived, they huddled and the G-Men left. While he drove Alvaro's mother to her car on Canal St., they discussed the severity of our fates. After all was said and done, I was grounded for six months, starting in mid-June and Alvaro was sent to boarding school.

New Orleans 1977 Bourbon Street

Source

Cafe Du Monde Fun

Source
New Orleans Beignets
New Orleans Beignets | Source

French Quarter of New Orleans

Ernie K Doe - Mother in Law

The Streetcar

Green Streetcar on Canal Street
Green Streetcar on Canal Street | Source

For only 7 cents and a transfer, the New Orleans streetcar was our ticket to anywhere in the city. You could pick up a date and take them to the show long before you had your drivers license. The street car went to all the popular haunts like Canal Street, Audubon Park and Pontchartrain Beach.

Summer Trips Across the Lake & to the Gulf Coast

Mom holding a snake on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Al Bordelon, All Rights Reserved

I always looked forward to trips across the lake and to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When we would get to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Mom would always make us take a deep breath so that we could smell the Pines. She loved to go to Fontainbleau State Park and Zemurray Gardens. Fountainbleau was a wonderland for me. There were so many animals to see and little snakes and lizards to catch. When Grandma would come with us, she would make me empty my pockets before I was allowed to get into the car for the drive home.

During the summer, we would rent a house in Waveland, Mississippi. The owner of the house left his pig and chicken there and we would feed and care for them. We'd often walk to the local picture show and would find the pig and chicken curled up together on the front porch, waiting for our return. They were friends.

Vanished Mississippi Gulf Coast

Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

We all loved to fish and explore the Gulf Coast, especially me. On a fishing trip to shell beach, I caught a ribbon snake. After a little coaxing, I finally got Mom to pet and then hold her first snake. Mom was as brave, if not braver than anyone in our family.

My Dad really enjoyed fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and he would take me and my brothers to many spots on the coast. Today I still enjoy fishing and like to go out to the rigs where the big ones are.

Sugarbowl - Old Tulane Stadium

Old Tulane Stadium photo is public domain.

We didn't live far from Tulane Stadium, where they used to play the annual Sugar Bowl football game before the Super Dome was built. My friends and I would always wait until half time, when they would let you in for free. As kids, we saw many exciting games from some of the best seats in the stadium.

Photographic Tours of New Orleans Books

If you can't go to New Orleans or if you have been there and want to remember the sights and sound then these books are for you.

Mardi Gras Float

Source

Audubon St., New Orleans, LA

A marker248 Audubon St., New Orleans, LA -
248 Audubon St., New Orleans, LA
get directions

This Top Ten Best of New Orleans in the Fifties was written by my husband, Al aka rio1. Though Al is no longer with us, he will be remembered by his wonderful stories of New Orleans, the way it used to be.

© 2008 Yvonne L. B.

Don't go before you tell us about your Mama an' dem

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    • naturegirl7s profile image
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      Yvonne L. B. 3 years ago from Covington, LA

      @pepino49: I wish I could help you, but my husband was the author of this page. He died a few years ago. Perhaps someone else from that era will read this. St. Francis has reunions periodically. I believe the last one was in 2008 or 2009. Perhaps someone from the school could answer your question.

    • profile image

      pepino49 3 years ago

      I need help finding information about an old uptown private pre-K school whose name I believe was Mercadel. It was located around State and Webster or Prytania. I attended this school in 1954. I too went to St. Francis of Assisi from 1956 - 1959.

    • profile image

      herran 3 years ago

      I was born in 1949 in New Orleans and lived in Metairie and Kenner for 60 years after. New Orleans was the big city Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame, a zanadu for the residents. We were lucky to live in such a quirky yet loving place.

    • Demaw profile image

      Demaw 4 years ago

      I still like to visit NOLA, and I understand how you feel when I think of how my old neighborhood has changed.

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 4 years ago

      I lived on Esplanade many years ago, my daughter was born at Charity Hospital. This was like taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Thank you so much for publishing this beautiful lens!

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      I visited New Orleans about 10 years ago, surely is still a wonderful city. Everything is changing nothing is no more as in 1950. I was born in Milan (Italy), my city was so beautiful during the 50, nothing remains of that time, only memories. Nice lens!

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      I live in New Orleans now, but I love seeing older pictures of the city! I used to work at the LA State Museum and got to see lots of older New Orleans scenes in photos - that was one of my favorite parts of the job!

    • Oikouros profile image

      Oikouros 5 years ago

      LOL! my momma was born in New Orleans in 53. I have faint childhood memories of Audubon park, especially the carousel, walking on the levees and visiting Lake Pontchartrain before we moved away when I was 6. mom and my sisters moved back to NOLA, but not I. The reason I think is that it is no longer magical New Orleans... it's NOLA now, ya know? It's still a wonderful town but it's a different city from the one I was born in...

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 5 years ago

      I love New Orleans, I spent time there while flying helicopters in the Gulf. I'm doing a lens about Fats Domino, he embodies NO

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm a child of the '50s myself. Lived north of you in Memphis, but we visited N'arlins many times. Fats singing "Walkin to New Orleans" is one of my all-time-favorite songs from that era of my life. Thanks much, for stirring up fond old memories.

    • profile image

      MrTibbs 5 years ago

      One of my favorite cities. I spend as much time there as I can every year.

    • Cinnamonbite profile image

      Cinnamonbite 5 years ago

      I'll be there in May! Been wanting to try a beignet for years! Oyster po' boy, here I come!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Mama an' dem are doing fine. Well, actually Mama is dead, but everybody else is okay. Gawd, how I love New Orleans! You are so fortunate to have grown up there. I would love to live in N.O. one day.

    • LizRobertson profile image

      LizRobertson 6 years ago

      New Orleans is probably the most magical place I've ever been in this country. I love your stories of growing up there. Thanks for sharing!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Good lens

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 6 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      What an interesting lens full of great memories of a fabulous city! Loved the old photos on this lens. Hereâs a virtual string of Mardi Gras beads for you! Blessed...

    • LakeMom profile image

      LakeMom 6 years ago

      Great photos of New Orleans from another time. Wish we could get into a time machine and visit past locations - at least we did through your lens.

    • RMKK-Marlene profile image

      RMKK-Marlene 6 years ago

      I love your lens! My Mama an' dem moved to Bull Shoals, AR from Chalmette after Katrina. My family and I moved from Metaire to Montana 6 months before Katrina. One of the things we used to do when I was a kid that I don't believe you mentioned on this lens is driving out to the Lakefront to see the Mardi Gras Fountain and the tulips. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I still have my Ponchartrain Beach admission card from the 60's. Now I'm going to head over and take that language quiz. :) Take care y'all. ~Marlene

    • LadyJasmine LM profile image

      LadyJasmine LM 6 years ago

      My Mama done got her a new job at that big new superstore on Tchopitolus, so Christmas could be good! :-) Great lens!

    • profile image

      WhitePineLane 6 years ago

      So much fun to read about his fabulous city in a simpler time! Excellent lens.

      *Blessed by a Squid Angel*

    • profile image

      sandralynnsparks 6 years ago

      So cool! I haven't made it to New Orleans yet, but my grandfather's family lived there...nice to see this!

    • starlitparlit profile image

      starlitparlit 7 years ago

      New Orleans is such a beautiful city. I love visiting here with all of the sightseeing there is to do and all of the culture around every turn. Being from Louisiana, myself, I love all things that have to do with this wonderful state.

    • profile image

      seegreen 7 years ago

      What a well done and interesting lens. I had to come down here and comment before I forgot because I am engrossed in my reading. I will go back up after this. We have visited New Orleans a few times and I've always really loved the city. Blessed by and Angel

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

      LouiseKirkpatrick 7 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      This is an incredible lens - lovely memories and images and I did laugh at your teenage exploits with your friend Alvaro! naturegirl7 suggested I visit your lenses and I'm very glad she did!!...I'm very happy to give you my SquidAngel blessing for this lens :)

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 7 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      New Orleans has always fascinated me - what a fantastic place it must've been in the '50s. I spent some time in Galveston, TX so got close but haven't experienced the Big Easy yet. I am determined to have some beignets and chicory coffee at the Cafe Du Monde someday. Thanks for brightening my morning with some nice thoughts!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      Congratulations! Naturegirl7 has chosen this terrific lens to award a purple star to!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      What a beautiful way to remember your youth, and in such a beautiful city! I know we can never go back to the past but it's such a tragedy to think of New Orleans now.By the way, to me the streetcar is a tram - and we still have them in Melbourne (au). Gorgeous images all round. Blessed by an angel today ( /one-hundred-lens-blessings)

    • BigFish1 profile image

      BigFish1 7 years ago

      I like how you used the borders on your lens, great work, and great images. 5 stars.

      =============

      Carpet Cleaning Fargo ND

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 7 years ago from California

      Congratulations on your nomination in the Giant Squid Awards...and best of luck going for Giant :) This is a very good lens.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congratulations on your Giant Squid Awards Nomination! This is a winning lens. :)

    • naturegirl7s profile image
      Author

      Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from Covington, LA

      Congratulations for being nominated for the Best Potential Giant lens at the 2009 Giant Squid Awards.

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      happynutritionist 7 years ago

      Congratulations on the Giant Squid Award nomination, what an excellent lens:-)

    • profile image

      rio1 7 years ago

      Thanks, I feel honored to be nominated.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 7 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Outstanding! Definitely worthy of your Giant Squid Award nomination. I thoroughly enjoyed this lens!

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Wow! Your lens is nominated to 2009 Giant Squid Awards! Congratulations, it's well deserved!

      Dom.

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      Enjoying by virtual trip down memory lane in New Orleans.

      Well laid out and I love all those old pictures.

      Poitine

    • naturegirl7s profile image
      Author

      Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from Covington, LA

      Great job! It made me remember the family trips there when I was young.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Wow! Very interesting! I've read a few books on New Orleans - mainly because Louisiana was originally a French state... it has a wonderful history. You lens added to my knowledge on the topic.

      Great and thank you for the trip to Louisiana ;)

      Dom.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the fun read! Enjoyed it very mcuh!

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 7 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens and traveling back in time in New Orleans!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I truly enjoyed my visit to this lens and am so glad that I caught it on Senior Squids. This is marvelous and is blessed by a SquidAngel. We were in New Orleans around 1980 for a Clemson Football Game and it was definitely a memorable experience. We have re-enactments of our meal at Commander's Palace.

    • kateloving profile image

      Kate Loving Shenk 7 years ago from Lancaster PA

      This is a wonderful lens!!

      ####blessed####