The Stroll Then & Now: Monroe, LA

6 Sep

“We are now driving down DeSiard Street, the stroll in Monroe, Louisiana,” wrote chitlin’ circuit pioneer Walter Barnes in 1936. DeSiard buzzed back then, at least in Barnes’ infectious, up-tempo telling. “The Red Goose Barber Shop is the place where all the boys have their grooming done…Lovely Brown’s Beauty Shop is where all the ladies get their fancy waves for the dances…The Grog Cafe is the dining place of the profesh, and the Frog Pond Ballroom is the most beautiful and spacious dance palace here.”

The Stroll, hep vernacular for black Main Street, was the backbone of the chitlin’ circuit from the ’30s-’60s. While researching the circuit in Indianapolis, Houston, New Orleans, and Macon, I always checked out the stroll to see what was left, and found parking lots, on-ramps, or strip malls. I think the fact that these places were paved over is an important aspect of the circuit’s obscurity as it relates to American culture. If these places existed, we’d have a much better understanding of their history. Here’s what’s left of DeSiard Street, the Miller-Roy Building at 1001 DeSiard. I’m fairly sure this is where Barnes and his Kings of Swing played in December 1936. (Though he lists the address of the Frog Pond as 1003 DeSiard, this building has multiple entrances and it’s not unusual to find these larger buildings listed with a spread of address numbers in city directories.)

I thank Monroe photographer and historian Lee Estes for getting in touch and sharing his images of the Miller-Roy Building on DeSiard Street. He says that a venue called the Savoy Dance Club was upstairs at one time and that homeless have colonized the building. It is now condemned, and from the looks of google maps, there isn’t much else left of the Monroe stroll. Here’s another angle of the Miller-Roy.

I would love to publish images of your local stroll as it looks today, so please reach out if you can contribute something.

Advertisements

19 Responses to “The Stroll Then & Now: Monroe, LA”

  1. Herb Otwell February 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    The upstairs of the Miller-Roy building was the 10th St. Social Club for many years, (1970-1985). I went up there several times. There was a stage on the Desiard St. end of the building and dressing rooms to each side. The whole building was a step back into another era. The Second flor had several of the old style office doors which had the frosted glass and the name of the business behind that door. I remember a Dentist Office, Dr. McClanahan, A Doctors Office, and an Insurance company. There was a cafe on the street level and a bar. I think some of the rooms were rented out to people to live in at one time. I drove by there yesterday and could see that the roof had caved in on the third floor. So many of these old buildings are abandoned and left to rot.

    • Preston Lauterbach February 11, 2012 at 12:26 am #

      Herb, Thank you so much for the vivd commentary. Wish I could’ve seen the place in its heyday! I’m sad to hear it’s falling apart.

      • herbert Otwell February 11, 2012 at 2:27 am #

        You are welcome Preston. One could tell it was once a place for entertainment. the way the upstairs was laid out and built. There were usually a lot of people up there when I went up. There was an old theater building across the street. I think it was the Rose Theater. There was a bar on the side of that building and a cafe on one corner. It was a pretty busy place on weekend nights. The other buildings around it are torn down now.

    • Freddy Rattler July 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      Hi there. I’m Freddy Rattler of Houston Texas, born and reared in Monroe. My facebook wall paper, a performance pic (circa 1950) of my Mother, Father and cousins, was taken “upstairs” in the Miller-Roy bldg. Please feel free to take a peek. I’d love to know if anyone knows if a tour inside the bldg. is possible?

  2. Preston Lauterbach February 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    great photographic memories, Herb, thank you. Do tell if you saw anyone perform in that neighborhood. This might be one of the few records of what went on there.

    • Herb Otwell February 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      I don’t think there was ever a live performance by anyone in that area. Most of those bars , the social club, and cafes only had juke boxes and an occasional DJ type of music. I am certain there were some live concerts during the 1950’s there, in fact I know there were some near there because I once saw some old flyers for a couple of artists who performed there way before I would have even been old enough to go. My memories are confined to the early 70’s throught the present. I’m sorry I can’t help you there. I can ask around. That is in the Downtown area of Monroe and it is ratehr bleak and run down. There are some efforts underway to reclaim some properties along the river and make them into resturants and shops. We also have several local artists who have studios on DeSiard and ther are art walks held there often. It is slow but there is some progress but not as far East as the Miller Roy Building. That building is in what most people think as a “bad part” of Monroe.

  3. Lee Estes February 13, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Reply to Mr. Otwell’s comment. The Theatre he refers to was the Ritz in the 9000 Block facing DeSiard. In the 1943 Monroe telephone Directory the Ritz prides itself in being the only theater in Monroe “Exclusively for Colored People.”
    The last major performer I remember appearing there was Ivory Joe Hunter in the 1950’s.
    Roosevelt Wright, publisher of Monroe’s African Newspaper, says there were many up and coming stars who appeared at the Savoy including Louie Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Billie Holliday, and others. I have documentation on an appearance by Count Basie.
    Lee Estes.

  4. Lee Estes February 13, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    Reply to Mr. Otwell’s comment. The Theatre he refers to was the Ritz in the 900 Block facing DeSiard. In the 1943 Monroe telephone Directory the Ritz prides itself in being the only theater in Monroe “Exclusively for Colored People.”
    The last major performer I remember appearing there was Ivory Joe Hunter in the 1950’s.
    Roosevelt Wright, publisher of Monroe’s African Newspaper, says there were many up and coming stars who appeared at the Savoy including Louie Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Billie Holliday, and others. I have documentation on an appearance by Count Basie.
    Lee Estes.

    • Herb Otwell February 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Ivory Joe Hunter was the name I couldn’t remember. I think he lived in that pink house on Milhaven road at Powell Ave. I kept thinking the Ritz was the Rose. I remember when that building was still standing but the theater wasn’t open.

      • Preston Lauterbach February 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

        Cool! Yeah I’ve heard some stories about that house. Can you send a picture?

      • Herb Otwell February 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

        I don’t have a photo of it and it is gone now. His mail box had musical notes on it.

      • Brenda Smith July 19, 2012 at 2:07 am #

        He married the daughter of Dr. J.C. Roy a very well off dentist that was in that building. I remember his house on Millhaven wish there was some pictures of it somewhere. The lady he married was Sophie Roy, dont know if she is still alive.

      • Freddy Rattler July 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

        Hi there. I’m Freddy Rattler. As a kid musician/trombonist, I had the pleasure of doing a gig with Ivory Joe in some country town in North Louisiana. He was the first “older” musician (like I am now.. chuckle) that made me know that talent wasn’t a new thing. This boy (Ivory Joe) was a baDDD cat. He could really sing and play. I was shocked!

      • Bette Brodie November 30, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

        I spent from 1956 to 1972 in Monroe and went to Ouachita Parish High School. The house where Milhaven Road came to a dead end at Powell Avenue WAS Ivory Joe’s house. I’m really curious why he came to Monroe to live since there was really not anything much going on there musically. We loved his music and we would occasionally see him out in the area and he always wore a yellow suit. Strange that his house was the same color.

  5. Freddy Rattler February 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Hello.. I’m Freddy Rattler, formerly of Monroe, La. I have a family photo I believe was taken on the performance stage of the Savoy. The individual who gave me the photo, Mr. James Evans, trumpeter and bandleader in the 50’s, may have told me the pic was taken in the Savoy. Please refer to my facebook page for a view of the pic. I’d love to confirm or discover otherwise the origin of the photograph.

  6. John Shaw (@jdoggtn) May 2, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Hey, Preston. We met at the unveiling of the Willie Mitchell historic marker in Memphis. By sheer coincidence, I took some pictures along Desiard Street last October. You can see them here: http://thefrontlinemusic.com/post/11897897621/although-i-was-in-louisiana-for-grambling-state

    • Preston Lauterbach May 2, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      I remember that, John. Thanks for getting in touch. Terrific photos, what a vital building that was. I’d love to hear some stories out of there.

      • Vera Diggins April 9, 2015 at 1:12 am #

        Hi, I remember this building in the late 50’s and 60’s. Dr. Reddix a dentist, had an office there and that was where I went for my teeth. Also Pierce Pharmacy was downstairs on the Main Street (Desiard) where we hung out on a Saturday. I went to school with his daughter. We lived in a house that Mr. Miller owned on 21st street.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 100 Men Hall – Preserving a Mississippi Juke Joint - November 10, 2011

    […] much as I enjoy griping about the failure to preserve chitlin’ circuit/black history landmarks, I am much happier to learn about a successful […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: