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Norman Smith Interview, Part 2
Cramer, Cheryl Q.W.
Topics include: Mardi Gras Indians, Treme current day, clubs, funeral homes, benevolent halls
Smith begins by speaking about the Mardi Gras Indians. Some of them were from his neighborhood and made their own costumes. This was a year-long process, so they began preparing for the next Mardi Gras right after one ended. They dressed up as skeletons and scared children with their scary masks and chants. On Mardi Gras Day, he recalls waking up early to watch the 6th Ward Indians. Smith talks about the Mardi Gras clubs today that have big events at hotels downtown. He says big venues like these were not necessary back then because there were not enough people interested in going to the balls-- it was referred to as a white people holiday. He remembers that you were considered fortunate if you got to see the Zulu parade. Smith describes himself as a curious and adventurous younger person, and he walked around to see the entertainment in Tremé but he doesn't recall many bands from the area. He does remember Alphonse Picou, however, who was an internationally renowned clarinet player who played with his band on the corner of Smith's street. His band wrote "High Society' which was a traditional brass song. He then talks about funeral homes which were both culturally and musically important. Their tradition enhanced the musical community in Tremé and were also a vibrant part of the economy. He talks of the sisters of the Holy Family who were also important, and created St. Mary's Academy, an all-black high school for girls. Some of the funeral homes he remembers were Blandon and Taylor. Blandon still exists today, and they were always interacting with the community. Smith says that the benevolent halls and associations are gone today but he remembers Economy Hall and Inseparable Friends-- two historically important halls. The Citizens Committee met at Economy Hall in 1892 to challenge Act 111 of the 1892 legislature which gave birth to Plessy vs. Ferguson. Smith suggests they interview everyday people from Tremé like Augusta Jones. He finishes by saying that music in Tremé has changed to keep up with the times because we live faster now, so the music must increase in speed as well.
Mardi Gras Indians
Amistad Research Center
Box 1, Item 9, 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.