I Remember New Orleans: Trip to the big city, circa 1930s
By June Brandt
The one thing I remember clearly about New Orleans, as a young girl in the late 1930s, is the sound of the streetcars. It was a sound I associated with excitement and mystery.
It was the first noise I heard on visits here from my small town in central Louisiana. I made the trip about twice each year, and it was always a highlight.
My father would pack up our Buick and off we would go for the 8- to 10-hour trip to the big city, the only big city in my cloistered life. My father would only stay at the Montelone Hotel. He had somehow met the manager, Mr. Spattafore, and felt he had an “in” there.
He also dined at Arnaud’s restaurant. Antoine’s, he felt, was too expensive. I especially remember the Shrimp Arnaud and hope it is still being served there.
During the day, my mother and I would hit the streets in hats, gloves and high heels to shop. Need I also mention hose and girdles? We loved Canal Street, with its teeming multitudes of shoppers, musicians, shady characters and street sellers.
Lunch was always at D.H. Holmes department store, where we had the Trout Amandine. After lunch, we always walked back to the hotel for my mother’s daily nap. I could then walk around by myself.
I loved crossing the street and visiting Solari’s, with its amazing array of vegetables and fruit. Toward Canal Street there was the White Castle, where I could buy 12-cent hamburgers made with Parker House rolls.
The French Quarter was the most exotic place I had ever been and never disappointed. The street vendors would pull their wagons by hand, shouting out their wares, and I was fascinated by the street musicians.
Sometimes we would go to the Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel for dinner and a show. The décor was awesome, especially at Christmas.
A few years we went down for the Sugar Bowl. By then I was allowed to take a friend with me, and we had some interesting experiences.
When I was 15, we met some college basketball players at the hotel who were in town for the game. With Mother’s permission, we celebrated New Year’s Eve with the boys, who took us on a riverboat ride with dinner and dancing. No cause for worry; the young men were lovely and brought us safely back to the hotel. It would be hard to imagine that scenario today.
I never tired of those trips. For me, New Orleans is still this mysterious, beautiful, exciting city, and I still love to come as often as possible.