My NOLA story is really a collection of childhood memories. The time period was the early 1960′s and I was a young boy living in the 2500 block of Banks Street. This was where and when my earliest memories were born. Our days were spent playing with friends on our block. It’s hard to believe now, but back in 1962 it was common for kids to play outside all day long without parental supervision. Our days were filled with roller skating with steal skates, football, baseball, hide-n-seek and much, much more. Occasionally, the Roman Candy man would come by with his horse drawn carriage and we were all treated to fresh roman candy. On weekends, my grandparents would take us to the lakefront to play, fish or just enjoy the fresh breeze off of the lake. Of course, there was also Mardi Gras and going to Canal Street to see Mr Bingle in the Maison Blanche front store window.
We lived across the street from the Dixie Brewery. On Sundays, we and most of our neighbors would make the 10 block walk to St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Tulane Avenue. The church was so big and beautiful….it was like walking into the Land of Oz. It was truly a magical place for me. On the way home from church, we would stop by McKenzie’s Bakery for some of their famous cinnamon rolls. Really, has there EVER been anything better than McKenzie’s cinnamon rolls?
However, there is one special, indelible memory of growing up in New Orleans that has stayed with me all these years….and that is this; Almost every night I would sit on the front porch of our shotgun house with my grandfather, whom I called Paups. We would play this game of counting cars that passed on Banks Street in front of our house. He had the cars on one side of the neutral ground and I had the cars on the opposite side. Whoever had the most cars pass on his side was the winner. Seems like a simple game, but I had my grandfather’s full attention and he had mine. There were no cell phones, texting or anything else to distract our attention.
Those early years on Banks Street in New Orleans were the most special of my life. Even 50+ years later, I am drawn to the 2500 block to see where my childhood memories were born. For all the above reasons, New Orleans will always be a place like no other for me.