LETTING THE GOOD TIMES ROLL IN LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA AND FINDING A PIECE OF NAVAL HISTORY

Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu

Madri Gras Musuem

I take pride that my hometown, Mobile, Alabama, is the home of Mardi Gras. On my recent tour of the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu in Lake Charles, I found here that Carnival season is celebrated year round. The museum told the story of how Lake Charles celebrates the season and bought back fond home town memories of ‘Throw me something, Mister.’

This six room museum features the largest collection of Mardi Gras regalia in the South and the collection grows yearly duet to the donations of costumes from members of the Krewe’s at the end of the each season.  As the collection grows, so does its encroachment into the halls of the Lake Charles Central School of Arts and Humanities Center or the Historic 1912 Central School.  The museum opened in 1998 on its mission to preserve Louisiana’s second largest Mardi Gras celebration.

THE COSTUME COLLECTION

The collection in the Museum is impressive beyond belief.  I was fascinated with the detail and sheer size of the mantles that adorn the costumes. Everything from space aliens to kings and queens is represented.  In Mobile, the Mardi Gras Kings and Queens invest thousands of dollars into the design, size and length of the trains of their costumes.  In Lake Charles, the mantles of the costume are impressive and some are massive. The Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu Museum is awash in vivid colors.

Lake Charles’ Carnival celebration is something special. Since 1964, with the formation of its first Krewe, the Krewe of Cosmos, Lake Charles has made carnival something for everyone. The common there for Mobile and Lake Charles is the celebration of traditions that remain constant, it’s all about the party. 

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

https://mardi-gras-museum-of-imperial-calcasieu.business.site/

HISTORIC WORLD WAR TWO DESTROYER IN LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA

USS ORLECK MUSEUM

USS ORLECK

I did not expect to find a naval vessel docked on the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles but what I found was a story of determination by a small number of volunteers.

The Orleck was built in 1944 in Orange, Texas and commissioned in 1945 by the widow of Joseph Orleck’s widow.  The destroyer served from 1945-1982 where it served throughout World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The ship was then purchased by the Turkish Navy and renamed Yucetepe where it served until 2000. The ship was then transferred to a foundation in Orange, Texas where it was to be made a museum ship.  Hurricane Rita severely damaged the ship then 2009 and it was moved to the City of Lake Charles for display as a museum ship. The Orleck is one of the few U.S. Destroyers that remains on display in the U.S.

The Orleck

For some older visitors the ship brings back memories. Many visitors have been crewmen that served onboard as well as individuals who worked in Orange, Texas where the ship was constructed. Ninety year old, Rosa Lee Miller, who on her visit showed the volunteers where she installed cabling throughout the ship. 

Ron Williams, Executive Director is the spokesperson for the ship. He explained that money is always an issue for ship and the group has come up with many inventive ways to keep the coffers full. Recently the Orleck worked with a movie company which used some artifacts from the ship. This was a profitable venture.  Ron also told me that the volunteers are the key to the success of the ship.

One volunteer, David has been a working on the Orleck for several years and told me that, “You can’t put a price on the memories that people share when they visit the ship.”  He also enjoys teaching history to the kids and showing them how things work on the ship.

Check out this piece of history in Lake Charles, you will be glad you did.

https://orleck.org/

Making the Good Times Roll, Mobile Mask, Mobile, Alabama

The Mardi Gras season is just around the corner and soon our streets will be filled with revelers celebrating Carnival I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Joynt, the editor of the Mobile Mask, the foremost magazine for Mobile’s Mardi Gras season about his unique and treasured piece of Mobile’s Carnival Season. 

Though Steve was not born under an azalea bush, he has spent a lot of time in Alabama. First, working for the Birmingham News and then for the Mobile Press Register. He was first introduced to Mardi Gras when he visited New Orleans. It was there he discovered a whole new holiday, one that lasts two and half weeks and isn’t just all about kids.

While working at the old Mobile Press building, Steve always appreciated that you could go see a parade then go back to work. He served as the Assistant City Editor at the Mobile Press and as the Mardi Gras coverage reporter.  As the Mardi Gras reporter, he eventually run out of ideas about the season. The running out of ideas was Steve’s spark of an idea. He began researching the history of the carnival season from the ground up.  He wanted to try and answer all the unanswered questions about our Mardi Gras.  “There are a lot of them.” Steve told me.

2019 Mobile Mask

THE BEGININGS OF THE MASK

When Steve went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, he used the Arthur Hardy guides to steer his adventures. He discovered there was nothing like the Hardy guide for Mobile’s carnival season. He had in mind as a similar guide for Mobile when he began to create the Mobile Mask.  He worked on the magazine at night and soon he had a decision to make, either do it or not.

In September of 2011, Steve took medical leave from the Mobile Press Register. He returned at a time of upheaval at Press Register. He took the buyout offered from the newspaper in 2012.  Then during the 2012 carnival season, he took lots of pictures of the parades for what would be included in the magazines’ debut issue in 2013. “Why I thought one person could put out a magazine, I don’t know. It seemed doable.”  He told me. 

GETTING THE MASK ON ITS FEET

What Steve didn’t know at the beginning of the adventure was how difficult it would be to sell ads for the magazine. He is very grateful for his first customers and that they have continued to be customers through the ensuing years. “I can’t talk people into advertising but I can sell an ad for the magazine.” He decided against coupons in the magazine because “The Mask” is considered a keepsake publication. 

Mr. Mardi Gras
Steve Joynt

MR. MARDI GRAS

The Mask has now become the “go to” guy for everything Mardi Gras, the media now calls Steve to see if parade is going instead of checking with the local police.  The Mask’s Facebook page is very active during the season and it is now become the source of all Mobile Mardi Gras information.  Steve admits he doesn’t know it all but he does dedicate himself to the topic all year long.  He attends all the association meetings in order to get the inside scope on what will be happening for all the parades for the carnival season.  He was there when a new Saraland organization’s members showed up in costume, all so that the organization would get its parading permit.  

Steve’s main objective with The Mask is to “Make it a Happy Place”.  In a twist on his journalist roots, Steve has the organization’s review the articles before their stories are printed in the magazine.  There are no ‘got ya’ stories. He wants people to be pleased with the articles. He wants people to enjoy the article and to “cut them out, put it in a frame and hang it in their den.”

The 2018 Mobile Mask

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MOBILE AND NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL CELEBRATION

What’s the biggest difference between New Orleans and Mobile Carnival celebration, “If you want a good seat for a New Orleans parade, it’s pretty much an all day affair.  In Mobile, you can set your watch by the parade and go have dinner afterwards.”  Mobile has more days of parading than New Orleans and Mobile has more mystic societies. New Orleans organizations don’t rent their floats and Mobile does.

An interesting fact is that in Mobile, fire truck drivers do most of the float driving.  There is also only one man in Mobile who pulls the floats in and out of the float barns. This is a highly specialized skill.

MOBILE’S BEST KEPT MARDI GRAS SECRET

“Nobody is in Charge.” Steve told me. Everyone thinks someone oversees but it’s a myth.

This year, over ten thousand copies of The Mask will be printed.  Be sure to get your hands on this unique, Mobile original keepsake. The Mask is here to “enhance people’s fun.” Steve said. It will lead you to understand and enjoy of the Carnival Season when it hits the streets of Mobile.

Be sure to have your copy handy for all the festivities and remember to Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler (Let the Good Times Roll) on Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday, March 5, 2019!

http://www.mobilemask.com/