New Orleans celebration that we attended and more about the children and their activities and family matters.
The Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans always kicks off on the 12th night following Christmas, which is on January 6. There are many clubs or "krewes" that participated in the celebration with fancy balls and parades. The krewes are often named after Greek gods and goddesses like Bacchus and Isis. The krewes select a king or queen which reigns over their celebration and rides on a float in the parade. They sometime chose celebrities as the king or queen.
The Rex parade is downtown on Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras. The King selected by the Rex parade is the main king or the King of Carnival. The parades start two weeks before and leading up to the big day which is on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Lent begins on Wednesday and Good Friday and Easter follow.
Each krewe mints new doubloons with a different design each year in red, gold, and green. Doubloon collecting is like coin collecting. Collectors try to get them in all colors from all of the krewes. Kids trade them at school and adults also collect them. Some rare dates sell for quite a lot in coin shops. Don was excited about starting a collection. We bought him a binder with plastic holders for the doubloons.
After the first parade or so which you saw after we first moved to the area, you decided that you had seen enough and were ready to stay home. The children and I liked the excitement and pageantry. I enjoyed looking at the costumes and elaborate floats, and they liked collecting bags of doubloons and beads and other trinkets. Carol, the more serious of our children, wasn’t quite as interested as the twins were and would sometimes choose to stay home with you.
Once I took the twins and Connie downtown without you. Don really wanted to go to this parade, thinking he would get a lot of new doubloons. The crowds were four and five deep, and I was determined not to let go of Connie for a second. That meant, I had to trust Don and Christi to stay near us.
A float passed flinging so many doubloons and beads that the crowd went crazy, and the people were chasing behind the float trying to get as much as possible. The twins either chased the float, or were pushed along by the crowd. I couldn’t find them anywhere. It took me at least twenty minutes of looking everywhere, before I finally found Christi, but Don wasn’t with her. I demanded that she not leave my side. When the parade ended, I was in tears. But after the crowd thinned, Don showed up. He’d remembered where I’d parked, and had gone there when he couldn’t find us. It was the last time I went to a downtown parade without you.
The previous season, your sister Maxine, and Wayne had visited us and gone to one of the Saturday parades in the French Quarters. This is an area to be avoided if safety is a concern. Someone snatched Wayne’s wallet, and he gave chase. Wayne was overweight and had nearly given himself a heart-attack, but he’d been successful in getting his wallet back. You and I stayed away from that part of the city when the parades were going.
This year, in 1977, Henry Winkler, the Fonz, of Happy Days had been selected as the reigning monarch of the Bacchus parade. The parade was in downtown New Orleans at night and the kids persuaded you to take us. Probably, the only reason you agreed is because you wanted to keep us safe. It was crowded, and we had to get there early. We were nearly midnight getting back home. I think this was the last time you attended a Mardi Gras parade downtown.
Metairie had it’s own parades now and it was much safer. Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeanie was one of the celebrities who was on one of the Metairie floats.
New Orleans had other celebrations as well. Since the main religious group in New Orleans is Catholic a lot of the celebrations had to do with that faith. St Joseph's Day and St Patrick's Day were celebrated in March. St. Patrick was the patron Saint of Ireland and the parade day was on March 17th. One of the things unique about this one was that you might come home with food thrown from floats. The people on the St. Patrick's Day floats, along with throwing beads and doubloons to the crowds, also threw ingredients for Irish stew. They threw cabbages, onions, potatoes and carrots. This parade wanders loosely though neighborhoods, stopping at pubs along the way, where bartenders serve them green beer.
There were also marchers in these parades, carrying sticks covered in white carnations or roses. The flowers would be awarded to ladies along the route in exchange for a kiss. By the time most of the participants got to the end of the parade route, they were often pretty inebriated, having indulged in so much beer. While I couldn't approve of the lifestyle, these celebrations did add local color and gave us something to do which seemed interesting for a while.
This parade route was in a safe neighborhood and residents brought out folding chairs, or sat in the grass of their lawns to watch. Since we were living in the area, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit about the local culture, so I took the children to several of these parades. I think you may have gone to one with us.
The Feast of Saint Joseph followed closely after St Patrick's Day, and their parade was always on Saturday, so we never attended that one. St Joseph was the patron saint of Sicily and the celebration was in honor of those of Italian heritage. The Altars of their churches were laden with carefully prepared food and flowers which I think were donated to charities after the ceremonies were over.
Carol had her sixteenth birthday in February. I had scheduled an appointment to get her hair styled that day. She was against the idea, but I pushed it, and she went. She barely allowed me to make one picture before going and washing her hair and putting it back straight the way she liked it. She was stubborn when it came to trying to change anything about her appearance. She was only comfortable with the way she saw herself, and woe unto anyone who wanted to change anything about her.
As soon as school was dismissed for the summer vacation, Christi joined a girls softball team that played at Johnny Bright playground near us in Metairie. A new Karate studio had opened and all three kids got one month of free lessons. After the first month, we paid for Don to continue to take lessons.
The week after we celebrated Connie’s fourth birthday, Joe Wilson, your sister Helen’s husband, died. We took off work and went to Newton for his funeral. He was the first of our family in-laws to die. Helen would be at the mercy of neighbors to help her when she needed to get groceries or go to church, since she didn’t drive. She didn’t live far from your Mom, but she didn’t drive either.
1977 wasn’t a good year for your family. In the near future, another event would occur to shake the Shelby family.