A slice of life in 1930's New Orleans

In the early 30s, as the hard times set in, most of the new construction and land development, begun in the late, booming 20s, came to a standstill. The new Metairie Country Club and golf course, surrounded by some new and elegant homes, struggled unsuccessfully to survive. The haughty New Orleans Country Club, its once-filled membership depleted by resignations, went begging for new members. The old, elitist Carnival organizations also felt the pinch; some had to eliminate their annual parades.

The city, always a “poor” one, found its financial position deteriorating, having been practically cut off from state and federal funds by a vindictive Huey Long, first as Governor since 1928, and, later, after he moved to Washington as Senator, by his rubber-stamp, controlled, state legislature. Long was particularly antagonistic to the city, its newspapers, its Old Regular Democratic Party, and the “silk-stocking aristocrats” of Tulane’s board of directors, all of whom had bitterly opposed him politically. Any indignity he could think of to make them suffer, he took delight in imposing. To spite Tulane, which had once refused to grant his law degree, he built the L.S.U. medical school, centered it on the state Charity Hospital grounds, and took away most of the university’s medical teaching beds.

In spite of its prolonged poverty and political troubles, New Orleans in the 1930’s was an interesting and enjoyable place in which to live. Food was cheap; a “poor-boy” sandwich (a half loaf of French bread sliced longitudinally, spread with mayonnaise, and packed with hot roast beef and fixings) cost 25 cents; a five or six course lunch at Maylie’s or Tujague’s was 50 cents; and in the lake front spots at West End near Bucktown you could eat your fill of boiled shrimp or crabs or crawfish for almost nothing and wash them down with a nickel glass of beer. Gasoline sold for 12 to 15 cents a gallon; a streetcar ride with transfers to any point in town was 7 cents. Apartments could be rented for 25 to 40 dollars a month. You could buy a second-hand car for less than $100 and send off to Georgia for a $4 license tag.

Electricity and indoor plumbing were common, but almost no one would have had home air-conditioning in the 1930s. New Orleans in summer is brutally hot and humid. Public transit was mostly by street railway. The Port of New Orleans was the # 1 segment of the City’s economy, followed by the oil industry. Tourism existed but not on the scale of today.

The upheaval of the no-win civil war, WW1, and the great depression have led to a less restrictive social climate than you might think of the 1930’s south. Women and those of color, while still subject to prejudice, hold down jobs, own land, and generally don’t have to fear for their lives just for being themselves.

Voodoo is seen as a religious faction and is treated as a sort of odd, valid, but potentially dangerous niche religion (cult having to much negative connotation for what I mean). Outside of the New Orleans area Voodoo’s reputation would be markedly worse, and “dangerous cult” would likely fit.

A slice of life in 1930's New Orleans

A twist of FATE in the big easy instantapathy instantapathy