An item in The Arizona Republic some 18 months or so ago reporting that New Orleans’ grand old Roosevelt Hotel was undergoing a complete renovation brought back a memory of an extraordinary event that I witnessed there more than four decades ago.
I was the chairman of a group of federal, state and local officials that oversaw the administration of the City of New Orleans’ participation in the National Model Cities Program, a component of President Johnson’s Great Society Program. We met monthly in the city council chamber of the New Orleans City Hall.
A representative from the mayor’s office interrupted one of our meetings to announce that the mayor was giving a cocktail party for our group late that afternoon at a public room in the Roosevelt Hotel.
The party was well under way when eight or 10 firemen in full fire-fighting regalia and with fire axes in their hands came rushing in and began chopping away at one of the walls.
That was quite a scene. Those firemen were at work with enthusiasm, and standing behind them were a bunch of blasé guys in suits and ties with drinks in their hands observing the action, and the bartender never stopped pouring.
Normally in such a situation the firemen would clear the room of “civilians,” but those firemen did not dare break up the mayor’s cocktail party.
Only in New Orleans, or to put it another way, only in “The Big Easy!”
Incidentally, I attended another cocktail party given by the mayor of New Orleans, but it was at the old city hall, and I don’t recall whether it was the same mayor.