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Emile J. LaBranche Jr. Interview, Part 2
LaBranche Jr., Emile J.
Cramer, Cheryl Q.W.
Topics include: his life growing up in Treme, music, class distinctions in Treme
LaBranche played the saxophone in the Joseph A. Craig school band. His mother, sister, and brother played the piano and his brother also played sax. LaBranche took violin lessons and on holidays his sister would play piano, he would play violin, and his brother would play the saxophone. His mother was a member of the B Sharp music club. LaBranche recalls that the mail carrier organized an orchestra of twelve children which met and practiced in his basement, and that they played at a few marches. He says there was plenty of music in his neighborhood. A popular waltz at the time was called "My Dear". His sister was taught piano by Camille Nicholson who also lived with his family for a year. One of his neighbors made pralines and sold them on Canal Street. LaBranche talks about church music and how it is the same as it is today, only a few changes. Protestant churches sang old time hymns while the Baptist churches sang mostly gospel. He says that today, any church has any type of music. He recalls playing violin at church and saying that the members of the central congregation were subject to his "screeches" on the violin. LaBranche then talks about vegetable vendors who originally rode around on horses and wagons but then transitioned to trucks. The trucks would go to the French Market then to the neighborhood with vegetables and produce. They were very prevalent in the Tremé area. LaBranche went to Joseph A. Craig School, then to Albert Wicker, Straight High School, then Xavier University and Atlanta University. Ricker had no band, but at Xavier and Atlanta LaBranche played the violin in the orchestra and the sax in the band. The Craig school was a school built for colored children which white people apparently objected to because they saw it as too nice of a building to use for that purpose. LaBranche remembers that the Mardi Gras Indians marched on Claiborne Ave in the street with tambourines. Sometimes they met with other groups, and it was rumored that they fought with each other. LaBranche also recalls the Baby Dolls, a club which apparently disappeared. The Baby Dolls consisted of women from the neighborhood clubs and they wore satin while they sang and danced in the street. The Skeletons wore black with a cross bone and Papier Mache heads which scared children. LaBranche said he remembers being afraid of them and running away from them with other children from his neighborhood. With regards to class distinctions, LaBranche doesn't recall many in Tremé. No one was punished for dancing in the street, and he remembers learning from his uncle that you couldn't afford to look down on anyone. He was taught to ride a bike from a white friend, and really didn't encounter any class distinctions. LaBranche's family owned a radio because his father loved music. When they moved out of their house above the pharmacy and into a house on Claiborne Ave, his father bought a phonograph that played records. His tastes in music varied and he liked just about all genres. When LaBranche took over the drug store, he played all types of music and never had complaints. His customers enjoyed it at the store. He remembers that many stores had music boxes where customers could pay a nickel for a song, but he had an issue with that because people would turn up the music and bother his sick patients.
Mardi Gras Indians
Amistad Research Center
Box 1, Item 7, Side 2, Treme Oral History Project collection, 1993-1994, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.