Stopover in Morgan City
17.12.2004 - 17.12.2004 10 °C
We got the shuttle van back to the airport at 9. I had arranged to be picked up at 9:30, so after breakfast in our room and cleaning out the refrigerator, we went down to the front desk with our keys to check out before the van came. Checkout time was at 10, so we were a little early but we saw a van parked out front. So I went out to see while Bob finished checking out.
There was no one in the van but there was another van down in front of the Fairmont. He picked us up. He said the other driver was probably drinking coffee around the corner in McDonalds.
When the van driver found out we were not flying out, but picking up a rental car, he let us off at the AA section and told us to take the escalator down to the rental car area. But we turned the wrong way and walked the whole length of the airport back to the elevator - which was just as well because the escalator was down for repairs.
We checked in at the Enterprise counter, and then she told us to go out and cross to the median for pickup. Bob didn't hear her tell us to go to the median, and he wasn't going to do it until I went across and found the Enterprise sign.
We've got a silver Neon. The LA license plates say 'private' if it is someone's personal car, and ours says 'commercial' in addition to having the E for Enterprise on it. After we did the walk-around, I went and sat in the car. Bob wanted a map, so he went back in and I attempted to open the glove compartment to look for the owner's manual and found the sliding latch was broken off. So the guy came back and confirmed that this was so.
We started off for New Iberia where our motel reservation was. The land is very flat and laced with canals and lakes and ponds. We took 310 to US 90, which is on the map and is posted as "Future I-49". Some of it is limited access.
By about noon, we had whistled past Morgan City. I wanted to revisit Morgan City because we did a day-trip to it in 1960 to the 23rd Blessing of the (Shrimp Boat) Fleet. I took these 35 mm film photos in 1960
Back then, they had the decorated boats motoring up and down in the river in front of the city docks.
I went up on the bridge and walked half way out to take photos. In the early days of shrimping, "You could have gone boat to boat to boat and walked all the way to the railroad bridge," according to an old resident.
I had found a place called Manny's in the AAA book and decided we should eat lunch there so I wanted to turn off of the I-49/US 90 at the exit, but Bob went past it.
We got off US 90 in Berwick (across the river from Morgan City) and came back across the old bridge (with a sign saying it was the Allen-Long bridge - in the old days all the bridges were Huey Long or O.K. Allen. This was the bridge where I was standing when I took the photos above.
O.K. Allen was Huey's stooge governor because there were term limits. Long spent the off time away being a senator in D.C. Although Governor Allen's initials stood for Oscar Kelly he went by O.K. Which I thought was ironic because he always OKed everything Huey wanted.)
We eventually found Mannys.
The inside was dark green and the tables had plastic checkered tablecloths. There was a big American flag hanging inside.
It looked very nice. I however went for the buffet which was $10.95. They had a salad table including deviled eggs, a whole seafood and vegetable table which included crawfish fettuccini, crawfish etoffee, shrimp gumbo, fresh greens (with hard boiled eggs), seafood puffs, fried fish and a lot of other things,
and another whole table of desserts (coconut pie, lemon and chocolate meringue pies, pecan pie, chocolate cake, white cake, banana cream pie, and strawberry topped sugar free cake. Then we went out to see the (free) Brownell Memorial Park carillon.We found it north of town on SR 70,
and went into the Visitor's Center.
According to the visitor's book, we were the first visitors in 2 days. The carillon is in an 106 foot tower and has 61 bronze bells - it is one of the largest cast-bell carillons in the world. Each of the bells has to be 'tuned' so that they sound not only the main tone, but also the upper and lower tones.
However, when we talked to the guy at the visitor's center and asked him if he sounded the bells from the electronic keyboard behind him, he answered that they are played by something like an organ with foot pedals as well as hand levers and apparently they need someone who is very athletic to do it.
They have no one to play the bells now and the quarter hour sounding was done on a tape that they had made of the bells at a time when they did have someone to play them. The man in the visitor's center apparently walked with canes, and had difficulty speaking - possibly due to cerebral palsy. We walked out to the tower
On the way back to the car I took note of the map of town as to where various other things I wanted to see were before I went back to town.
We found Cypress Manor which is a two-story house which contains antiques and Mardi Gras costumes from 1928 to the present. Admission was $3 and we decided not to go in. It is part of the historic downtown district. Walking tour maps can be obtained from the information center on Myrtle Street (which I never found)
Then we came across the 205 Shop that was advertised in the guide I had
and I went in and bought a present, which she wrapped for me. I don't know how I will deal with the fact that it is wrapped when we go through security to fly back to Miami.
She told us that they still had the Blessing of the Fleet and they closed the old bridge so people could walk out on it, but it was a much bigger deal now and was for both shrimp AND oil. I looked it up. It is now the the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in September. They celebratd its 75th year as a Harvest Festival in 2010 In 2010, they also celebrated the 150 year anniversary of Morgan City. The fest's schedule of events includes parades, live music, fireworks, glitzy balls and a swim relay meet. Among the food and crafts booths that overtake Lawrence Park and Greenwood Street you will find an encyclopedic survey of coastal Louisiana shrimp cookery: shrimp etouffee, shrimp po-boys, shrimp on a stick, shrimp patties, shrimp fettuccine, bacon-wrapped shrimp.
She asked if we had seen any movie stars from the movie company in town filming "All the Kings Men" But at that time, we had not. On the way to the "Mr Charlie Rig Museum" , we did run into the movie filming folks. (We could tell by the 1930s cars)
In 1958, when I was in college, I saw the original movie based on Robert Penn Warren's novel of the same name which had Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark (Huey Long), John Ireland as Jack Burden and Mercedes McCambridge as Sadie Burke. I never read the novel, but in 1960,when we lived in Louisiana and I saw all the OK Allen bridges I got Huey Long's Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship 1928-1940 (the book on which the book/movie was loosely based) out of the library and read it. When we got to Morgan City the second time, they were filming the remake of "All the King's Men". In this version Willie Stark was played by Sean Penn and Jude Law plays Jack Burden.
And we saw others in other places around town
Next we went on to see the "Mr Charlie Rig Museum" at the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition
which is billed as "The Only Place in the World Where the General Public can Walk Aboard an Authentic Offshore Drilling Rig!"
The first offshore oil rig that was stationed out of sight of land was 43 miles south of Morgan City in 1947. The rig was named after the father of Charles Murphy of Ocean Drilling and Exploration company.
The Short Story from the website says:
"From 1954 to 1986 "Mr. Charlie" drilled hundreds of offshore wells off the coast of Morgan City, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first transportable, submersible drilling rig and an industry springboard to the current offshore rig technology.
"Mr. Charlie" was built in 1952 and finished in 1953. In 1954 he went to work for Shell Oil Company, drilling a new field in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Despite skepticism from offshore industry professionals, "Mr. Charlie" performed up to expectations and went on to drill hundreds of wells for every other major oil company operating in the Gulf, with a cumulative depth of 2.3 million feet.
His barge is approximately 220 feet long and 85 feet wide. Under the living quarters pontoons extend the width to 136 feet. The barge is 14 feet deep, with a 4 foot skirt extending below its bottom on both port and starboard sides.
The floor of the platform is 60 feet above the barge, supported by the massive legs that serve to connect the barge and platform. These legs also serve as conduit for connecting services such as: electric, water & air lines, elevator access and other services needed to operate an independent facility, out of sight of land"
I decided not to try the tour
We drove down along the waterfront and saw the dikes and an occasional gate in the dikes.
The ICW comes to along the waterfront here. It was hard to take photos of the waterfront without getting out and climbing the wall,
so we just went back to the center of town (Federal Street),
and I took pictures of the Spirit of Morgan City (an old shrimp boat) in the median strip,
which has now got a Santa on it and is being "pulled" by two reindeer - how the reindeer do at swimming I don't know).
They also have a model of an oil rig tower in the same location.
We drove out of town on the old bridge
Next- New Iberia