Saturday, June 23, 2012

'The Garden District of New Orleans' a must for history lovers

            When visitors arrive in New Orleans they usually follow a straight line from Louis Armstrong Airport to the French Quarter. Some venture out by hailing the streetcar uptown, but some of the city’s most impressive neighborhoods lie just beyond the tourist center and off the St. Charles streetcar tracks, and most only glimpse this area when visiting Commander’s Palace.
            The New Orleans Garden District was in its many sections was subdivided and settled primarily by Americans, protestants Yankees in many instances and not with the more carefree attitude of Creoles who founded the city and lived in the Quarter.
            “Suffice it to say, they were far fonder of cash and capital than of moonlight and magnolias,” writes Jim Fraiser in his latest coffee table book, “The Garden District of New Orleans,” published by the University Press of Mississippi.
            Even Garden District writers Grace King and George Washington Cable preferred related tales of the city’s more flamboyant residents and not their own neighbors.
            “This may explain why thousands of books (including one of mine) have been penned about the French Quarter, while a mere handful have focused upon the Garden District of New Orleans,” Frasier writes in the preface.
            Illustrated by West Freeman with numerous samples of this vast collection of architectural styles, the book examines the neighborhood chronilogially and by subject matter. While showcasing impressive homes, their history, building styles and owners Frasier also discusses daily life, the outbreaks of yellow fever, the American’s embracing of Mardi Gras, Civil War, religion and many other subjects.
            It’s a gorgeous book and one every lover of New Orleans history, architecture and culture should add to his collection.

‘From the Heart’
            Robert Charles Payne of West Monroe, a motivational author, radio and TV host and newspaper columnist for the Ouachita Citizen, has assembled a collection of inspiration stories titled “From the Heart: Stories of Hope, Passion, and Purpose,” published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans.
            The book’s nearly 100 essays are based on Payne’s personal experiences and run the gamut of subject matter, all offering ways to meet life’s challenges with a Christian message.
            Payne is the host of TV’s “Sacred Conversations” and the “Package of Power” radio show. He has served as the head football coast and athletic director at West Monroe High School.

King of New Orleans
            Greg Klein writes about former Baton Rouge resident, wrestler Sylvester Ritter better known as the Junkyard Dog in “The King of New Orleans: How the Junkyard Dog Became Pro Wrestling's First Black Superstar,” published by ECW Press.
            “Ritter wasn’t just the king of New Orleans,” Klein wrote me by email. “In the 1980s he was a huge star through the territory known as Mid South, including all of Louisiana. He was the first black or African American wrestler to be made the star of a territory, at a time and in a place where the backlash from the Civil Rights Movement was still active.”
            Klein’s book explores both wrestling and racism in the South.
            “It is about a shooting star and a forgotten hero,” he wrote. “It is about the fans — your readers — who remember him in their hearts. As odd as it sounds now, the Junkyard Dog was a bigger star at the time than even Archie Manning. He drew more than a million fans to the arenas during a five-year span and was a cross-over star appealing to all races and ages. He died tragically young and has mostly been forgotten, but I hope my book will change that.”
            Klein is planning several charity campaigns to honor Ritter; visit for more information.

Write on!
            Acadiana Writing Project in collaboration with LSU-Eunice Continuing Education is sponsoring Word Up Youth Writing Camp for students in grades 4-12 from 9 a.m. to noon July 23-27. Students receive a T-shirt and anthology for participating. The cost is $89. Information:, (337) 550-1390.

Lafayete Library events June 25-30
            It Came from the Toybox! with Charlie Williams the “Noise Guy” for ages 3 and up at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Jefferson Street Branch
and 3 p.m. Monday at
South Regional Library.
            Starry, Starry Night Painting for ages 5–12 years will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at North Regional Library. Come celebrate summer by designing a sparkly star painting using watercolors and glitter. Preregister by calling 896-6323.
            Run and Catch a Gingerbread man! for ages 5-12 begins at 2 p.m. Thursday at
South Regional Library.
            Self-Publishing 101 with Andrea Porter begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at South Regional Library.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at