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

JoAnn Clevenger grew up in a strong Baptist community in northern Louisiana and eventually found her way to New Orleans.
Historic New Orleans Collection

JoAnn Clevenger had never even heard of Mardi Gras until she moved to New Orleans in the late 1950’s. She dropped out of Tulane to care for her mother and then moved to the French Quarter shortly thereafter. At that point in her life the jazz clubs, restaurants and literary circles she hung around weren’t like anything she’d seen.

After graduating from Xavier University, Tureaud left New Orleans in 1960 and traveled the world before settling in White Plains, New York, where he worked as a director of special education for more than 30 years.
Historic New Orleans Collection

AP Tureaud Jr. was raised in the 7th Ward, which he called “the stronghold of the Creole community.” A Creole himself and the son of prominent civil rights lawyer AP Tureaud Sr., he remembers the neighborhood upheld education and leadership. But as often as this unified message was preached, Tureaud says not everyone in the community was given equal footing.

Although they don't own the facility, Rene Brunet Jr.'s family has signed a 50-year agreement with the Prytania Theater that allows them to operate it exclusively.
Historic New Orleans Collection

When Rene Brunet Jr. was a kid, his father owned the Imperial Theater, a single-screen movie house in Mid-City. At the time, movie theaters were neighborhood institutions and played to the vaudeville expectations of the audience. But from the time he was a child, Rene saw the film industry undergo one transformation after another, which put his family’s business under constant pressure to change or get out of the way.

John Mecom Jr. was actively involved in the sports industry. Apart from the Saints he owned Mecom Racing Team, which managed several Formula One racing teams and drivers.
Historic New Orleans Collection

When New Orleans was awarded its NFL franchise in 1966, the first person to own the team was John Mecom Jr. – a 26-year-old Houstonian whose father made a fortune in the oil industry. An avid sports fan, John helped shape the team’s identity: he picked out their colors and logos, and even helped move them to the Superdome.

But he was often criticized for his involvement with the team. Throughout his 18 seasons of ownership, John had an adversarial relationship with the league, press and fans.

As a young child without reference, the crowds of protesters awaiting Leona Tate at McDonogh 19 in the Lower 9th Ward sounded like a boisterous Mardi Gras parade.
Historic New Orleans Collection

When the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that separate black and white schools were unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, it seemed desegregation was close at hand. But it took six years before the New Orleans school system was integrated. In the fall of 1960, Leona Tate — then only 6 years old — was one of four young black girls escorted through a crowd of protestors.

Among the many innovations that K&B Drugstores brought to the New Orleans area were self-service drugstores, which didn't exist when Sydney Besthoff, left, began working at his family's company.
Historic New Orleans Collection & Infrogmation

When he started working at the family business in the late 1940’s, Sydney Besthoff III had no intention of becoming K&B Drugstore’s lead man. Over the course of the next 20 years, Sydney worked in every aspect of the business and became general manager. He expanded the company along the Gulf Coast throughout the 70’s and 80’s then sold the beloved chain in 1997. There was a local outcry — after all, K&B had been in New Orleans since 1905.

Retired columnist Angus Lind's news beat was decidedly upbeat compared to the grave stories he followed as a young man in the 1970's.
The Historic New Orleans Collection

Angus Lind’s column in The Times-Picayune documented things that he described as, “a little offbeat”:  people, places and events that gave New Orleans its local color. But that didn’t come until later in his career. When he got started in the early 1970s as a young man, Angus was a general-assignment reporter who cut his teeth on a series of tragic events within a single calendar year.

During the 1984 World's Fair, Jeanne Nathan was not only beset on all sides by publicity issues, but she was also pregnant, which naturally added to her stress.
Historic New Orleans Collection

  

As the Director of Public Relations for the 1984 World's Fair, Jeanne Nathan had her work cut out for her.

The fair not only had to compete with the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, but it was challenged by an oil crash, political conflict, and bad publicity. It remains the only World’s Fair to declare bankruptcy during its run. Despite that, Jeanne feels New Orleans learned invaluable lessons in tourism and marketing that are still used today, but will be the first to admit that handling the Fair’s image was a constant uphill battle. 

Before his career in politics, deLesseps "Chep" Morrison earned the rank of major general in the Army Reserve during World War II.
Historic New Orleans Collection

deLesseps “Chep” Morrison was the mayor of New Orleans from 1946 to 1961. History will remember his administration as a polarizing one: he lured corporations to town, but also upheld segregationist values. He ran for Louisiana governor three times, and lost his final election in the winter of 1964. Months later, he spoke with future Lieutenant Governor Jimmy Fitzmorris, who still remembers their final conversation.


Chris Owens stands among her collection of memorabilia. Her Easter Parade has become a tradition for many families, some of whom travel internationally for the event.
Keely Merritt

As part of a new collaboration with The Historic New Orleans Collection, WWNO brings you NOLA Life Stories: an oral history project documenting the people, places and things that shape New Orleans. This week historian Mark Cave interviews Chris Owens, a Bourbon Street entertainer and nightclub owner.

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