Treme Oral History Project Collection

Description

The Treme Oral History Project Collection consists of sound recordings of oral history interviews conducted by the Amistad Research Center from 1993 to 1994. It was funded by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. Its purpose was to document the musical heritage of the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, a predominantly African American neighborhood since the early nineteenth century. Interviewees were residents of Treme who had experience the musical heritage of New Orleans from a non-professional point of view. Topics touched on in the interviews include jazz funerals, second lines, the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, gentrification, nightlife, churches, street vendors and business owners, clubs and benevolent associations, and the boundaries of the neighborhood.

Principal interviewers were Cheryl Q.W. Cramer and Clarence Jones, Jr. Interviewees include: Louis Charbonnet III, Leah Chase, Ronald Chisom, Jim Hayes, Collins Lewis, Lavinia Warren Lewis Hickman, Emile J. LaBranche, Jr., Austin Leslie, and Norman Smith.
Austin Leslie Interview, Part 1
Topics include: Life in Treme neighborhood, Carnival season, Churches, Treme boundaries, school, music in his life, vegetable vendors, church, second line clubs, Mardi Gras Indians. Side 2 is blank., Leslie is a chef and the interview takes place at his restaurant at 732 N. Claiborne Ave. Leslie defines Tremé as being from Esplanade Avenue to N. Claiborne Ave, to the end of Rampart St. to St. Peter and back to Claiborne. Leslie was born in the 7th ward and went to Joseph A. Craig school, where his music teacher was Ms. Martin. Leslie remembers the second-line clubs which he describes as beautiful marching clubs. They had benevolent aspects like raising money for funerals. Leslie says that the young people who come to his restaurant don't believe that he came from the projects. Leslie played sports growing up and wanted to go to Booker T. Washington High School. While preparing for his graduation performance at Craig School, Ms. Martin told him to go on stage and to just open his mouth, but to not let any sound come out. Although his voice was not his strength, Leslie played in a band in high school. He enjoys music, especially old Jazz. While growing up he went to Sanctified (or Spiritual) Churches, which had instruments like tambourines. He says they don't really exist as much as they used to. Leslie describes the 7th Ward as educational because he was in the middle of everything. He recalls "Dookie" Chase, Earl Palmer, and John Fernandez as music teachers. Music was important to his family so he felt very connected to it. when he was 7 years old he worked on Rampart St. His family got a radio in 1946, but before then he used to borrow from friends. His family had a "gooseneck" phone as well. Leslie talks about the vegetable men who would sing songs about their products. He remembers Simmons who sold peanuts and had a rhyme ending in "make you feel like a billionaire". The vendors came to peoples' driveways after buying products from the French Market. They would push wagons but later had trucks. Selling seafood was against the law at that time, so they would hide it in their trucks. If police found it and they didn't have the money to pay the fine, the policemen would just take the seafood for themselves. Leslie's grandfather worked in produce and had a wagon. His family bought fruit, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and watermelon only. Because Leslie was Catholic, he went to a Corpus Christi Church in the 7th ward and then switched to St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, where he had his First Communion. it was traditional and did not have too much music, but he remembers the Baptist church one of his friends went to did-- there was always singing in the choir. There was also a second-line anytime someone died. "Dookie" Chase was a member of either the Jolly Bunch or the Square Deals--Leslie could not remember. Some clubs still exist today. They would go to Rampart St. to buy matching costumes and they formed like the Zulu club for social and pleasure. Another club was called the Poor Boys. His step-son is in a club that parades still. Leslies parents were separated and his father was from Phoenix. Although he didn't like the idea of his children marching, he could never stop them because their mother supported it and allowed them to. Leslie never really followed the Mardi Gras Indians because Carnival was a working day for him. He did go to the ball on Lundy Gras night and stayed up with the Indians to dress them up and drink. He always went to work the next day cutting chickens, and never had time to enjoy it. He remembers being afraid of the Skeletons club. The Baby Dolls were another group who dressed up, mostly in hot pink and baby blue., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Emile J. LaBranche Jr. Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: Businesses in Treme, Treme lifestyle, jazz bands and parades, musical influence. association with Treme area, clubs, benevolent associations, music in family life, LaBranche has a lifelong association with the Tremé area. He was born on N. Claiborne Ave and he and his family lived above the drug store that his father owned. He worked there as a child and it operated until his father died in 1970. As a child he played in the street and skated in the neighborhood with friends. He defines the Tremé boundaries as from St. Louis Street to Esplanade Avenue and from Claiborne Avenue to St. Claude Avenue. He now thinks those boundaries have become broader. LaBranche goes on to list a multitude of businesses in the area including the Tremé market, which extended for two blocks selling meat, fruit, and vegetables. It was owned by a black entrepreneur and they also had fresh chickens. Other businesses included drug stores, a dry goods store, a bicycle shop selling bikes for two people, a batter shop for cards, a shoe store, a department store, a bakery, a hardware store, a doctor's office, a furniture store, a few banks, a shoeshine parlor, a fire station, a restaurant, a bar, a pie shop, a barber, a coffee shop, a fabric store, a grocery store, and a chicken and dog feed store. Black-owned businesses included barber shops, a shoe shine, a mattress store, an insurance company, a few doctors, a beauty parlor, and a dentist. There was also a junk area which covered an entire street full of junk. At 22:10 he mentions the clubs that he remembers. He said people would rent out these clubs for dances and meetings. They were also the headquarters for the Jazz bands, school parties were held there, dances, and club affairs. He then mentions the over 50 benevolent associations that were formed by groups of friends, clubs, or church people that met monthly. These included only female, only male, and co-ed organizations. He remembers that every Sunday there was a Jazz band that played on the back of a truck. They would stop on the corners of the neighborhood so people could enjoy their music and dance in the street. There was also an annual parade with Jazz bands and second-line clubs. Claiborne Ave. was famous for these parades. At 30:45 he begins discussing music in his family life. Like everyone else, he went to go listen to the Jazz bands on the truck every Sunday, and he thinks all kids are very influenced by music in the Tremé district., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Emile J. LaBranche Jr. Interview, Part 2
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., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Jerry Haynes Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: preservation of culture for future generations, jazz, importance of music, Haynes lived in Tremé for 26 years and is now a community political activist and organizer. She still considers herself a part of Tremé although she doesn't live there anymore. One of her actions as an activist includes marching to preserve Armstrong Park. When she thinks of Tremé, she thinks of second-line bands, family, parades, getting together for a good time, music, people coming and going, and Jazz. She mentions a club that was torn down in the 1950s and she can't understand the reason behind tearing it down. She defines the boundaries of Tremé as being Broad St. and Orleans Avenue where many of the parades were, and Claiborne Ave. She mentions a red-light district and how many famous musicians came out of the Tremé neighborhood. She describes it as truly black music. Jazz was the only thing she knew as a child because they didn't have a radio, so they just heard the music from outside. She says this enriched the community and culture in Tremé. Haynes says that on Claiborne Avenue there used to be night clubs but now the area is dead. As far as music in her family, it was a huge deal. She played the clarinet and sang herself, and her daughter now sings in a choir. Her three sons play in bands and her mother used to play ragtime piano. She describes this sound as beautiful notes. Two of her uncles played the trumpet and one played drums. She remembers the vegetable men on wagons selling mustard greens, and her family living off of them. They would sing from their wagons saying, "I've got watermelon" and things of the sort. Jazz is Haynes' favorite type of music because that is what she grew up with. She says it is soul-searching music and there is no area better at Jazz, second-line bands, or music in general than Tremé. Her family was Catholic and went to church. They would play lackluster Latin music according to her, but then changed a few years ago, and now you feel uplifted when you leave church. She didn't enjoy the Latin music because it wasn't their culture and she didn't know anything about it. She says the whole community embraced the second-line and looked forward to parades. This is truly what Tremé is. She says the Mardi Gras Indians all assembled in the Tremé area, and on Mardi Gras day it was an unbelievable sight on Claiborne Avenue to watch them. Her cousins were original Mardi Gras Indians. She also talks about Jazz funerals. They would start at the funeral home and were more somber years ago compared to now, she says. She thinks that children should learn about Jazz because it is the root of where they come from, and she fears losing the sound. Her son has a book called "The History of Jazz", but she says that there is no credit to Tremé in the book. She wishes to preserve Claiborne Avenue, the black businesses, and bring back the Jazz to educate future generations., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Jerry Haynes Interview, Part 2
Topics Include: preservation of culture for future generations, jazz, importance of music, Continuation of Jerry Haynes interview. 00:00 Jerry Haynes tries to recall some names. Haynes suggest that the interviewer speak with Dookie Chase., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Jim Hayes and Collins Lewis Interview, Part 1
Topics include: Culture in Treme surrounding music and vendors on wagons, politicians never on the side of the music, music as a lifestyle. Sound cuts out at the beginning., Lewis and Hayes discuss the vegetable vendors in the Tremé area. They would start selling their items at 6am and come home at 6pm after selling everything on their wagons. One vendor, Mr. Brock, wouldn't yell or sing but he would blow his horn and people knew to come out. There were also coal sellers on wagons, and along with the vegetable vendors, they would rent their wagons from a station on Bienville and Roman St. In regard to politics in Tremé, the political system never considered music and the musicians, unless it was bringing in tourism and they could benefit from it. In 1950, there was a plan to destroy the area's music and history by tearing down 8 square blocks of night clubs and music centers. This was done under the Moon Landrieu administration and destroyed the culture of the people whose lives were so centered around music. Hayes and Lewis say that this is still going on now. They could not think of any politician who cared about music, they all tried to destroy it. They would also push second-line clubs out of the neighborhood by forcing them to have permits they could not afford. The marching clubs they mention were the Jolly Bunch and the Money Wasters. They stress that music is what the people survived on. One could wake up and hear the second-line passing, so you would go outside as you were getting dressed and listen. People would stand out and listen for hours, drinking wine, smoking weed, and sweating in the 100-degree heat. Hayes also recalls taking music classes in the afternoons while in elementary school with Mrs. Martin, and he has been singing ever since. Lewis and Hayes also mention that some visitors would come and exploit the bands by taking pictures and videos and selling them. One of them remembers walking on 31st Street and seeing a large, colorful book in a store. After getting a closer look, it was full of images of Mardi Gras Indians and was being sold for forty-five dollars. Then signs were put up prohibiting photography and videos. They explain music as being a way of survival. People could express joy and pain, and everyone could enjoy the sounds. Second-line season was from August to December, and some people lived for this season., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Jim Hayes and Collins Lewis Interview, Part 2
Topics include: keeping history of neighborhood alive, culture in bars, influence of gentrification, historic preservation, next generation, Lewis and Hayes discuss the next generation of second-liners and bands. They say that some could not even play a note but they got the instruments together nevertheless and played. They gradually improved, and they say that music was everything they ever wanted. It was very rare for someone to not want to carry on the tradition of music. Music in Tremé was spiritual and uplifting, and if that culture is taken away from them they won't have anything left. Lewis and Hayes also discuss that more and more whites were moving into the neighborhood and they only went to certain clubs. They say that the music, the food, and the bar all went together, and it was a wonder how these businesses stayed economically stable. Visitors didn't have to pay for the food -- they would give out red beans and crawfish for free, and charge very little for alcohol. This was apparently shocking for whites. Lewis and Hayes mention that whenever they brought someone from out of town there for the first time, their minds were blown away and they would have a fun time. They mention problems they had during Jazz Festival when people would leave the festival and then come into Tremé and change the dynamic. One of them says that anytime someone calls music "noise", there is something wrong with them. This is an indication of just how important music was in the Tremé area. They mention one white couple who says that they love the neighborhood how it is and are not the enemy. They also mention how the gay community desperately wants a bar in Tremé. I conclusion, Lewis and Hayes say that they need to leave as much history in the community as possible for preservation of the Tremé culture., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Lavinia Warren Lewis Hickman and Collins Lewis Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: Living in Treme in the 1940s, music influence, education. Hard to hear interviewer and at times., Hickman came to Tremé in 1944 and Lewis came in 1949. Hickman lived on Liberty Street but hasn't been back for about two years. She frequented dance clubs and recalls the High Hat club. The two mention a few musical families who played kazoos. Hickman's son played the saxophone, Lewis played the drums, tambourine, and did percussions. He describes music as something that is in you, a talent that the good Lord gives to you. He said that most people who played were inevitably teachers because they wanted to share music. They recall Jazz and Rock & Roll as the main types of music at the time, but they said there was a little bit of everything. Lewis says music equals music; people just give a name to different genres to make money off of it. Hickman had a radio on which she listened to Jazz and swing music. They listened to Dr. Daddy-O (Vernon Winslow) on the radio. They remember the vegetable, rag, and coal men who came along pushing wagons. The vegetable men would yell out songs such as: "I got watermelon, bananas..., and I got your chicken." Hickman said that at times they had chicken coups in the back of the wagon. While Tweed Zazzo had a horse-drawn wagon, Mr. Jerry just pushed one. Hickman's mother-in-law lived with the rag man. The two also mention that many people in Tremé went by nicknames that were assigned based on actions they had done. They say they went to Griffin Baptist Church and the Christian Mission Baptist church where people sang, clapped, and sang in a choir. Hickman says that there was more feeling in the music when she first joined versus later on. There were not any tambourines or drums at those churches until the 1950s, but there were at the Sanctified Church. There was also no dancing. Lewis sang in a choir-- some of his teachers sang in Tremé such as Ms. Hall. He went to Joseph A. Craig School until the 6th grade. He says that many people ended their education there because they had completed reading, writing, and math, which were the basics. He mentions second-line clubs, specifically the Treme Sports who had 6-foot high steppers., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Lavinia Warren Lewis Hickman and Collins Lewis Interview, Part 2
Topics Include: Differences in Treme throughout the years, music clubs, nature of the neighborhood and trust, Hickman and Lewis talk about the Tremé Ladies and Gents, the Jolly Bunch, the Money Wasters, and the High Rollers, the various social and pleasure clubs that would parade around Tremé. Everyone needed a license to march on the street at that time. Hickman's mother was a part of the Treme Sports, another club, but they do not parade anymore. They also discuss the Mardi Gras Indians and describe them as very lovable-- everyone wanted to be out with the crowd. They also mention that around 1953, Liberty St. became Tremé St. before the construction of Interstate 10. They talk about jazz funerals and how they would only have a band, but it has expanded greatly. Jazz funerals would be held for members of a club or a well-known musician. The biggest funeral Lewis can remember was for someone called Tank who slept in the back part of the ballroom, but because of the size of the funeral you would have guessed it was a funeral for a millionaire. Lewis says there is no difference in the funerals now than from when they began in regard to the music or transportation of the body, but the crowds are much bigger now. People came from everywhere for the funerals. The last thing that they discuss are open houses-- people would leave the doors of their homes open for anyone to come in and get food or use the bathroom during a parade. They say this still happens in the 6th ward at the time of the interview. There was no stealing or disturbance, they describe everyone as one big wonderful family. Things began to change in the late 1960s-- you could no longer sleep with your front door open, and people were afraid to leave their homes or walk anywhere., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Leah Chase Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: Growing up in the 7th Ward as opposed to in Treme, music, neighborhood culture, Treme vs. 7th Ward, Mardi Gras Indians, second line clubs., Leah Chase recounts memories of Tremé and the 7th Ward, describing Tremé as being full of life, and the 7th Ward described as more of a bore. Chase defines a "ward" as a political district, but each of the residents can make the neighborhood their own. In the 7th Ward, people lived a programmed life doing the same thing every day, working jobs like construction workers and seamstresses. Chase says that it never fit into her idea of living, mostly because of the lack of constant music and flow of people. There were Catholic Churches in the 7th Ward and Chase describes them as where all of the priests thought they were the Pope. The most music that she heard was from her family radio, where they would sit and listen to Louis Armstrong when he was on the air. Chase went to elementary school in Madisonville and then high school in the 7th Ward, both of which were taught by nuns. In contrast, Chase describes Tremé as being very lively. The first things that come to mind are music, street parades, and food. Chase thinks that music is the key to life-- you can see life in a different way when there's music around, and it helps people get through tough times while enjoying the good times. According to Chase, Tremé was a place where people could be free to dress, act, and be how they liked, and she loves that about it., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Leah Chase Interview, Part 2
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., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Louis Charbonnet III Interview
Topics Include: Jazz funeral business and traditions in Treme, Jazz funerals, second line funerals, Treme neighborhood culture, Charbonnet's upbringing. Side 2 is blank., Louis Charbonnet III describes his life growing up in Treme. He went to Joseph S. Craig school where he learned the trumpet. He played in the band there as well as in junior high. He played first French horn in the symphony at St. Augustus school. He still has his horn in the attic which he says he looks at nostalgically every once in a while. Charbonnet describes the boundaries of Treme as going from the lakeside of Rampart St. to the Riverside of N. Claiborne, and the Uptown Esplanade Avenue to Downtown Orleans Avenue. Treme was originally there to service the building of the French Quarter. Workers would leave Treme in the morning to go build homes in the French Quarter. There were meat markets and corner groceries in Treme but they no longer exist after the building of the interstate system and Armstrong Park. In this collection Louis Charbonnet III describes his life while growing up in Tremé. It was at Joseph S. Craig School where Charbonnet learned to play the trumpet. He later joined the school band and continued to be in the band through junior high. He also played the French horn while in the symphony at St. Augustine High School. He still has his French horn in his attic and recalls looking at with nostalgia every so often. Charbonnet describes the implied boundaries of Tremé as going from the lakeside of Rampart St. to the riverside of N. Claiborne, and the Uptown Esplanade Avenue to Downtown Orleans Avenue. He explains that Tremé was originally there in order to service the building of the French Quarter. The workers would leave Tremé in the morning to build homes in the French Quarter. There were meat markets and corner groceries in Tremé, but they ceased to exist after the building of the interstate system and Louis Armstrong Park. The construction of these two new formations also destroyed the old music halls and meeting places that were often used to create the music that was so central to the Tremé culture. Charbonnet says that they did away with the ethnic feel of Tremé as well. He describes the beginning of his family's funeral home business as an idea after seeing the carriage rides that were offered for various reasons in the city. His family owned a carriage and transformed it into a business as well as buying a hearse that was made in 1812 at an auction. Charbonnet describes the large difference between a Jazz funeral and a second line funeral. The Jazz funerals are more traditional. They begin with the slow funeral sounds, and there is a dignified mourning process. People go into the cemetery in a sorrowful manner and leave joyous. He describes this celebration as being a very African tradition. The second line funerals in contrast are much more upbeat for the entirety of the funeral. They begin with fast music and are more commercial. It is more like a performance and an outlet to release negative energy. They don't pay as many respects to the dead, however. They did still have benevolence-- they would provide food for the funerals and ample amounts of musicians and mourners. Charbonnet also mentions that there were people who moved to the front of Tremé (closer to Rampart St.), renovated homes, and wanted to bring in French Quarter culture. Old music halls were places for groups like the Tulane Club and Jolly Branch to meet with each other, but the buildings are now covered in a new façade. Artists then spread out towards the 7th ward, but their roots will always be in Tremé., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Norman Smith Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: Life in Treme, importance of music, church styles, boundaries of Treme, music in his life, clubs, vegetable men, jazz funerals, church, schools, Smith is the president of Forget Me Knots Inc. and grew up in Tremé. He identifies two important aspects of the boundaries as being the people and the city government. He says Tremé goes from Galvez to Burgundy Street, and from Orleans Ave to St. Bernard Ave. Smith adds that the boundaries fluctuate over time and have expanded since he grew up there. Four generations of his family have lived on N. Robertson Street. He says that his neighborhood was full of musically inclined people and it was very prevalent in his upbringing. Multiple houses shared a common backyard where they would have cookouts, play cards, and the Batiste Batiste family would play music. He remembers the Batiste brothers playing on makeshift instruments which made a very unique sound and they recreated traditional hymns. A few professional musicians lived on Smith's block, including a tuba player. Smith recalls a dry-cleaning business around the corner from his house which would have dances on Friday and Saturday nights and play music. No one in Smith's family sang or played instruments, but they all enjoyed and appreciated it. He does not remember any specific music teachers, but he does know that many people were eager to give advice to up-and-coming young people interested in playing music. Smith remembers some benevolent associations and funeral homes in his neighborhood. Some traditional brass band musicians in marching bands and clubs grew up in Tremé playing music their entire lives. Some parading clubs he remembers are the Square Deals and the Tremé Sports. He spoke of the second-liners who wanted to maintain Tremé culture. Although his family was poor and could not participate in parading, they very much supported the second-line clubs. He talked about Jazz funerals and that when a member of a club died, the other members would hire a band for the funeral. Clubs would wear their traditional outfits at the funeral. If a musician died, then the family would hire a band. They played slow music on the way to the funeral but after the funeral, the music becomes very upbeat and there is a jubilant attitude. They play the hymns up-tempo, which can confuse uninformed people who come over and dance. These funerals are much faster and more rhythmic than they were. Smith says that before they played everything slowly out of respect and it was more sacred and spiritual. Smith then talks about the vegetable men. He remembers "Whistling George" in particular, who had a hand wagon with two large wheels. He had a distinct sound in his chants. Mr. Chaney was another who had several mules and wagons and a vegetable store. Smith would shine shoes in the French Quarter, but realized that he would make more money working for the vegetable vendors and got a job unloading watermelons from trucks. He quit, however, when the work became too heavy because of the size of the watermelons. Smith also remembers rag men who came by and bought old rags and newspapers. There was also Mr. Bill, an ice man whom Smith worked with for a while, but he was later fired for mocking him when he lost his voice from singing too much. Smith and his family went to St. Peter Claver Catholic Church because they were Roman Catholic. Some of his extended family members went to St. Augustine. He said the music at St. Peter Claver was not very exciting, but they had an excellent organist and there was also a choir. The mass was conducted in Latin which Smith could not understand, but he enjoyed the Gregorian chants. They sang standard black Catholic church hymns. He sometimes visited other churches with friends, which had very powerful Tremé voices accompanied by piano and sometimes guitar or drums. Smith's first attempt to be musically inclined was when he attended the Joseph A. Craig school, but it didn't work out. He said that he was an average dancer but couldn't sing or play any instruments., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Norman Smith Interview, Part 2
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., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Ronald Chisom Interview, Part 1
Topics Include: Chisom's involvement in Treme neighborhood, cleaning up area ward by ward, music and culture in Treme. Background noise on recording., Ron Chisom is a community organizer and consultant for the history of New Orleans, particularly the Tremé area. He defines the Tremé area with St. Bernard, Canal, Broad, St Peter's Streets and Esplanade Avenue as boundaries. Chisom grew up in the 3rd Ward and later worked at Louisiana State University's (LSU) Medical School in the Medical Research Administration. He and a colleague named Jim Hayes were social activists against racism at LSU medical school. Around 1967, a group of drug-addicted individuals who knew Hayes came to them because they were having problems and wanted a change of lifestyle. They set up a meeting and strategized to improve their lives. The group then formed a club that led Chisom to get involved in the Tremé area. They set up a clean-up campaign to get people involved and to help other drug-addicted people have a purpose. They initially experienced some scrutiny, but later received more volunteers. Chisom initially did not know about the importance of music in Tremé, but he quickly learned by meeting musicians and learning about the different clubs. The 6th Ward Improvement Association quickly became the Tremé Community Improvement Association. The original group of individuals that approached Chisom and Hayes in 1967 were appointed as board members of the Improvement Association. This association gave stability to the Tremé area. After a while, a few of them stuck around while others did not. When asked about the influence of music on family life in Tremé, Chisom says that he learned that culture means a way of life, and in Tremé music helps to maintain humanity in a world where everything else tries to dehumanize African Americans. Music was their survival amidst oppression. Chisom never played an instrument or sung himself, but he does keep a beat and can drum to stay connected. He mentioned that drumming and being in the Congo Square is a way to keep them connected to Africa. Craig University was a major producer of keeping music alive in Tremé and teaching younger generations how to play. Chisom also mentioned the vegetable man, which was another way music was integrated into every aspect of Tremé life. Anyone could hear the vegetable man on his horse-drawn carriage from down the block as he sang about his fruits and vegetables for sale. Chisom attributes the ability of flow of music in Tremé to the lack of mass developments. On the weekends, Chisom and friends visit clubs such as Trombone Shorty and Joe's, where old time musicians play every day., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org
Ronald Chisom Interview, Part 2
Topics Include: Trombone Shorty, exploitation of musicians, importance of music, and gentrification, In the second portion of his interview, Chisom discusses that people worked in shifts at the music clubs. There was the 4pm shift, the 7pm shift, and the late shift. There wasn't a competitive nature to working these clubs. International visitors came to watch and were left in awe. They also looked forward to getting the chance to see a second-line band. Chisom says that it is important to stay in touch with people and musicians all year round, not just when you need them for something. He also mentions the gentrification in Tremé, and how some white neighbors have moved in and complained about the noise from the music in their neighborhood, but others have been supportive. One complication attributed to whites coming in is the exploitation of the musicians. Trombone Shorty is one club, for example, that made a rule that you could not take any pictures unless you received permission from the musicians. Chisom points out the irony because the walls of Trombone Shorty are apparently covered in photos. Chisom suggests that James Andrews would be a good person for these interviews because he was a member of the Trombone Shorty club, and Denny Jones would be another good person to interview. He finishes by saying that he thinks this is a very important research project and is glad it is being done because researchers can use it around the country and teach the importance of music., reference@amistadresearchcenter.org