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 Oral History Program, an ongoing effort to record and archive the voices and experiences of the people that have made New Orleans what it is today.

Sarah Holtz, Producer

Mark Cave, Executive Producer

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Prisons are built on the supposition that time, discipline and routine transform inmates into new people. Nelson Davis has lived with this idea since 1980, when he arrived at the Louisiana State Penitentiary to fulfill a life sentence.

Historic New Orleans Collection

If you kept tabs on local politics over the past several decades, then Jackie Clarkson’s name isn’t lost on you. This staunch Democrat represented many of the city’s downtown neighborhoods from Bywater and Treme to the French Quarter and Algiers, her childhood home.

But what influenced her to pursue a life in politics? Mark Cave found out when he interviewed Ms. Clarkson for this edition of NOLA Life Stories.

Leon Trice, photographer / Historic New Orleans Collection

On January 1, 1935 Americans were dealing with some big issues: the Great Depression had crippled the economy and the Dust Bowl had scoured the land. But down in New Orleans the mood was celebratory: football players getting ready to meet each other at the inaugural Sugar Bowl.

Joyce N. Boghosian / The White House

Leah Chase: say the name and New Orleanians know exactly who you’re talking about. She’s a great chef, a civil rights activist, and an avid art collector. And it’s not a stretch to say that – to some people – she’s the maternal figure of the city. On this edition of Nola Life Stories, Leah Chase, in her own words.  

This interview was conducted by Mark Cave for the Historic New Orleans Collection.

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.

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