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July 26, 2013

New Orleans’ Weather

Roy Meachum

Knowing my boyhood was spent in the Big Easy, friends have chided recently: “You grew up in New Orleans, hot and humid days and nights should make you feel at home.” Wrong!


My first Army summer passed in Frankfurt; German weather is much cooler and drier. After three years I was posted to Washington, but in those days residential air-conditioning had appeared. My first apartment in Georgetown was unequipped; my second in West Hyattsville was similarly bereft of the “modern” luxury. My childhood’s nights spent under a fan presented a dry (toward the blades) and a wet – anything away from the fan – sleep.


Until Frederick in 1983, my houses never knew the whir, comforting and chilling. But, as all recognize, in this region most summers emulate Louisiana, particularly the Crescent City – the name comes from the Mississippi River’s bend around New Orleans. (“The Big Easy” came after my time; it’s a typical Yankee view of the culture and byways.)


Mother died the winter after Katrina, permitting me to see the city’s modifications and wholesale destruction. The last time at Holy Cross College – the French word means students lived at the school – classes were held on platforms on the front lawn. I spent seven years there and I wear the ring on my left hand. Anyway, Holy Cross moved farther inland and the boarders were eliminated years ago.


My French grandsons visit New Orleans next week; I urged them, in addition to the French Quarters’ Bourbon Street, they go out to Lake Ponchartrain. When I was young, oyster shells paved the way. There were no cement streets reaching Ponchartrain; they were added after World War II. The lake’s amusement center, complete with rides, attracted my generation. Instead of a half-hour’s drive, it took twice that long.


Mardi Gras is not the same; when planes become the standard way to reach the city I grew up in. Hordes of tourist have come and stayed for longer; instead of the train that took two days and was expensive to most Depression-era pocketbooks, visitors enjoyed the weather.


The feast most years come in February and early March the sun above smiles benignly; it’s the day before Lent, followed by Ash Wednesday. The winter’s weather can be downright cold. I remember when I was seven-years-old, freezing in a pirate’s rayon costume – but I am a Louisiana boy. In northern climes, when I got older, I wouldn’t have ventured out.


The latest out of Louisiana this week: The New York Times reported Wednesday that an official agency is suing BP and Exxon Mobil, arguing that the energy companies are “responsible for fixing damage caused by cutting a network of miles of oil and gas access and pipeline canals through the wetlands.”


When I was a child, by whatever names the companies were at it. I remember an older man named Henry who was from Texas; he had children back home. He escorted me out several times; this was in the depths of the Depression, in the late 1930s.


I remember several years ago, at Todd and Ted Delaplaine’s house, there was at the News-Post an executive who was offered a position at The Times-Picayune; his mother knowing New Orleans was built under the sea-level worried him about taking it. The next August Hurricane Katrina swept in. The rest is history. By the way, Billy Randall didn’t take it.


One of countless Big Easy stories, but that I know as fact.


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