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Leah Chase Interview, Part 2
Clarence Jones Jr.
Topics Include: Lifestyle in Treme neighborhood, attitudes towards jazz funerals, Eleanor Tatum, night clubs, Storyville
Chase continues her interview by discussing the life of Eleanor Tatum, a woman from Tremé who she describes as being full of life. Tatum died in her 50s but in her lifetime, she was dedicated to teaching her four children, who all ended up going to college. What she really loved was the second-lines. Chase says that music is in some people's blood, and Eleanor was one of those people. She put her whole life into the second-lines. Some people looked down on this, but Chase saw it as a good thing. Another topic that came up was the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. Chase said that they paraded around and danced, reciting their chants along the way. This was done throughout the Tremé neighborhood, adding to its liveliness. When asked about nightlife and night clubs, Chase only remembered one night club called the Gypsy Tea Room. She says they didn't really have many night clubs because they went away before her time. At the Gypsy Tea Room, however, there was always entertainment, but never from 7th warders. Jazz funerals was another topic mentioned in this segment. Chase describes them as family businesses, many occurring on Jackson Avenue. They were often conducted on a horse-drawn carriage. There was some symbolism mentioned, an example was having the carriage drawn by a white horse indicating that the person died young. She says that her father-in-law should have had a Jazz funeral because that is what he loved, but his sister refused. She also insisted that his name in the newspaper be listed as Edinah Gordonar Lawrence Chase, not "Dookie", the name everyone knew him by. Because of his popularity, people lined up for blocks at his funeral. Chase says that it would have been perfect for a Jazz funeral. Chase's maternal family, the Tennet's, lived in the 7th ward. She said that you could tell where they came from just from their joy of living. Chase recounts that in Tremé everyone had to earn a living and work. You earned everything that you had and there were no hand-outs. She remembers the Storyville buildings that were one-room homes where many prostitutes lived. There was some kind of decorum about the lifestyle. Chase compares it to Mardi Gras, being like an organized bedlam. Chase also describes the basic things that kept her family going in Tremé. The list includes being clean, religious, happy, and honest. She recalls being raised religiously along with her cousin "Dookie", who came up with this lifestyle but apparently was embarrassed by it. This was not uncommon for blacks to believe that their customs were inferior. Chase, on the other hand, saw the good in her heritage and embraced her way of life.
Amistad Research Center
Box 1, Item 2, 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.