It's March, spring is coming! Birds are chirping. People are cleaning. Gals will soon be in shorts, and guys back in their farmer tans. We have survived the partying of Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl festivities. Now, New Orleans will bring us March Madness and, of course, the endless block parties of St. Patty's Day. It's no secret that the people of New Orleans know how to party, love their Saints, have excellent taste in music and are a resilient people. How did we get to be such an amazing and fun-loving group? It all started over 300 years ago with Iberville, his brother, Bienville, and some helpful Native Americans.
With permission from the French king, Bienville and Iberville crossed the Atlantic and traveled through the unfamiliar swampy waters of our southern shores to claim their prize. It was no small feat. By the time they found the site we call New Orleans, named for the French Duc d'Orleans, the two brothers had befriended Native Americans and used their help to dodge sandbars, avoid cypress knees and fi ght the hasty currents. All this hard work would bring them to a more relaxed day on March 3, 1699.
It was a Tuesday and the sailors found themselves camping on the river bend when they remembered that, back home in France, their friends and family were celebrating a now-notorious holiday, Mardi Gras. This specific bend in the river is still called Point du Mardi Gras, and is marked down as the location of the fi rst Mardi Gras celebration to happen in North America. Now we have the privilege, pleasure and obligation to let the good times roll, enjoy parades, balls, krewes, marching bands and plastic jewelry. Yes indeed, March is a very important month for us New Orleanians!
Let's move on to March 21, 1788. That Friday afternoon, Don Vincente José Nunez began to light candles on his home altar in the French Quarter. Within fi ve hours, the lit candles had turned into a full city fi re that consumed 856 of the 1100 structures that made up New Orleans. The fire had destroyed the only two fi re trucks in the city, the Cabildo, the prison, the arsenal, and the church, among other buildings. At this time we were a Spanish colony, and the Spanish acted fast. No one was allowed to raise prices on goods; the newly poor were fed from crops sent down the Mississippi River, and were given shelter by Governor Esteban Miro and his Intendant, Martin Navarro. New Orleans eventually grew and even thrived. This resilience and group effort is still strong in our character today. Through hurricane, fi re, termites and fl ood, we always rise up to the occasion and come together to keep this lively city kicking. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Now we find ourselves in March of 1922. New Orleans has long been rebuilt since the 1788 disaster, and the Jesuits at Loyola University have approval from the Vatican to start New Orleans' very own fi rst radio station. The radio station wasn't much like the tune-playing stations we listen to today for entertainment, but a chance to experiment with wireless technology. Some readers may have heard of this station: it's the one and only WWL, which originally stood for "World Wide Loyola." On March 31, WWL hit the air with a piano recital. Their original commercials consisted of a few minute-long requests, asking students to support construction on the Loyola campus. The station began playing jazz music like the Dixieland Jazz band in the 1940s, and during the 1970s, became home to country music by day and southern gospel by night. WWL is now one of New Orleans' lead talk show and sports stations, and has been the Saints' offi cial fl agship since 1995. Now it is one of many radio stations in the city, but still holds the title as the most successful.
Speaking of the Saints, the fi rst-ever Saints season tickets were sold in March. On March 7, 1967, men camped outside of the Mecom building, 944 St. Charles Ave., the night before the tickets were going on sale. Twenty thousand tickets sold the next day, and the fi rst regular season game would be held the following September in the old Tulane stadium. The Saints lost their opening game to the Los Angeles Rams 27-13, and ended the season with a 3-11 record. Fans would spend many years as the "Aints," wearing bags over their heads at games and trying to give away their tickets, but the Saints would go on to raise our city's spirit in 2009. After a few bumpy post-Katrina years, the Saints earned their fi rst Super Bowl ring, and tickets aren't quite as easy to come by.
March has brought us some historical moments of New Orleans heritage. Mardi Gras was fi rst celebrated in this month , and still now we climb ladders and scream "Hey, mister!" as decorated trucks parade down our streets. We were given the opportunity to buy tickets to support our beloved Saints: Who Dat! Last, but certainly not least, the city has been nearly completely destroyed in Marches past, and we have learned the strength of our resilience and sense of community, all in the wonderful, historic month of March. Cheers.