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  • Arthur Severio

Happy Birthday Ruthie

Updated: Jan 20

Ruthie in front of the Cornstalk Fence

(photo by Arthur Severio)

In the early eighties, the French Quarter was full of people who actually lived there. Artists, dancers, decorators, shop keepers, the fellas whose window displays made Canal Street department stores festive all year round were just a few.

Left to right Doug, the window to the right of the door where we spent our Sundays, and Kathleen during Southern Decadence celebrations.

Sundays have always been my favorite day of the week. They were magnificent in the French Quarter back then. Sunday mornings were the quietest time of the week. They were spent at home reading our Times-Picayune newspapers having our coffee and our breakfast delivered from the St. Ann Deli. On really beautiful days, we had brunch Im the courtyard at the Rain Tree. Kathleen Conlon, was quick to tell her customers that she was nursing a hangover from drinking with the fellas at Jewel's the night before.

Almost every Sunday, you could find us hanging out the window listening to gospel or country music, drinking our coffee, and people-watching. I probably inherited my innate sense of observing people from my brother -people are fascinating. Doug gave me his sense of adventure and to always live in the moment. He always had grat apartments. One of my favorite apartments he had was located at 716 Dauphine, right on the corner of Orleans,. There was a constant flow of folks walking downtown to work. There were a cast of hookers and hustlers making the stroll down to the financial district on St. Louis and Dauphine Streets. There was always a crowd in front of the Goldmine. There was a laundromat across the street where folks did more than was clothes.

We liked to cruise the boys and watch all the Sunday happenings. We chatted and had fun with the folks passing by.

One Fat Tuesday when the chaos of Mardi Gras was happening, a vision in a white wedding gown and matching veil roller skated right up to to our window and asked for a Kool cigarette."I need one for now and one for late-ah." Doug tried to give her a Benson and Hedges menthol. She politely declined and let us know what we could do with those Benson and Hedges.

She did a double spin and skated right into the crowd and over to the Goldmine to fulfill her mission.

Ruthie in one of her many wedding veils given to her over the years.

(photo from the internet)

Miss Ruthie was always on the move and you never knew where you might run into her. We locals loved her. The bartenders and the bars' patrons treated her to draft beers and her beloved Kools from the bar's cigarette machines. Her ducks were always in tow and sat either on the bar or on the stool next to her. If you bought Ruthie a beer, you had to buy the duck one as well. People often told tales of Ruthie cursing her dead ducks out after they were ran over attempting to follow her as she crossed the street.

(photo by Mickey Demorelle)

(photo by Arthur Severio)

Through the years, I encountered Ruthie many times. Ruthie could be as sweet as honey when she wanted something and mean as a snake after she got it. She lived in an apartment in the 1300 block of Dauphine near the Port of Call. Across Esplanade, there was a Circle K where the Esplanade Mini Mart is now. It was Mardi Gras time, and I needed a Diet Coke. I was so excited when I saw her in the store. I loved her which aggravated the dickens out of her. She was one of my favourite local celebrities and my teenage heart skipped a beat every time I saw her. I said, "Happy Mardi Gras Miss Ruthie!"

The old heifer wearing pointed cowboy boots, kicked me in both of my shins and replied, "Happy Mother's Day mutha fucker!"

Tracy Thompson in her Ruthie costume

(photo by Arthur Severio

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