NOLA Life Stories

NOLA Life Stories features first person perspectives of the individuals who have helped shape our community.

Created by The Historic New Orleans Collection with the collaboration of WWNO, the show features excerpts from oral history interviews conducted as part of THNOC’s New Orleans Life Story Project, an ongoing effort to record and archive the voices and experiences of the people that have made New Orleans what it is today.

Thomas Walsh, Producer

Mark Cave, Executive Producer

Marion Post Wolcott / Library of Congress

The historic Dew Drop Inn in Central City is in the midst of a revival. For many years it was the hot spot in the Jim Crow South where guests could catch a show, grab a sandwich, spend a night, and even get a haircut.

Thomas Walsh

People’s expectations about “entertainment” aren’t what they used to be. What passed for fun as little as 10 years ago can’t compete with the stimulating, instant gratification of our iWorld.

The owners of the Musee Conti Wax Museum know this too well: earlier this year they sold the building, which will close in January and be replaced by a set of condominiums. Sandra Weil gave tours there for nearly 30 years and shares the back story of the museum.

Historic New Orleans Collection

When Sal Impastato handed over the keys of the Napoleon House this past spring, it was an emotional moment.

Selling the business to restauranteur Ralph Brennan had been a difficult decision because the building had been in Sal’s family for generations – first as a grocery, then as a bar.

Historic New Orleans Collection

Lois Tillman fondly remembers a Chinaberry tree that was in the yard of her childhood home. It was there that her Papa taught her to love poetry, which began her literary journey.

As the years came and went, Lois became a teacher, a writer, and a performance poet known as Starlyte.  She found out inspiration comes in many forms, from the terrestrial to the cosmic.

Former governor Kathleen Blanco is interviewed by historian Mark Cave.
Michael Wynne

Kathleen Blanco is the only woman to be elected governor of Louisiana, and was at the helm when Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast. She admits that the challenges of the storm were too much for state and local governments to handle.

The National WWII Museum

Inspired by the stories of World War II veterans, the late University of New Orleans historian Stephen Ambrose wanted to build a museum that would honor their experience.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

For 37 years, John Bullard directed the New Orleans Museum of Art and oversaw many blockbuster shows during his tenure.

French Impressionists always drew large crowds, and subjects like The Gold of El Dorado and Alexander the Great were well received, but none compared to the Treasures of Tutankhamun. The ancient boy king had become a cultural sensation by the late 1970s, when New Orleans became ground zero for "Tut-Mania."

After being hired in the spring of 1975, Angela Hill was quickly promoted to co-anchor of the news at local television station WWL.
WWL-TV

For over 38 years, Angela Hill served as anchor for the most popular news channel in New Orleans, WWL-TV. She got her start, however, in smaller market stations in Texas in the early 1970's. At that time, having the news delivered by a solitary male anchor was still the industry model, but that was about to change.

George Wein, seated, worked with different music experts to guarantee that the Jazz Fest lineup was stylistically diverse.
Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc.

Jazz Fest creator George Wein was a pianist and professor of jazz studies at Boston University when he organized the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954. He scored another hit with the Newport Folk Festival and became a sought after concert promoter.

When officials from New Orleans wanted him to produce a festival in the Crescent City, George knew he wanted to do it, but encountered some obstacles along the way.

Tom Benson, pictured with wife Gayle and granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc, grew up in the St. Roch neighborhood and graduated from Brother Martin High School and Loyola University.
Chuck Cook

When Tom Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints in 1985, the team had never had a winning season. Over the course of 30 years, Tom has helped reshape the team to become one of the NFL's most popular teams and a source of community pride throughout the Gulf South. 

While Tom's ongoing dispute over the legacy of his sports empire continues to unfold, NOLA Life Stories wanted to examine the man behind the headlines. Tom grew up in the St. Roch neighborhood and  is no stranger to hardship: the man climbed into the billionaire’s club from humble beginnings.

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