I decided to eat dinner Friday night at the Warehouse Number 1 Restaurant in Monroe, Louisiana, which is built on the levee directly beside the Ouachita River. I hadn’t eaten there in nearly ten years, but it’s still good.
Although I was in Louisiana for Grambling State University homecoming 2011, the nearest hotel I could get a room in was at Monroe, Louisiana, 30 miles away. When I got to Monroe, I came upon this old, seemingly-historic building at 10th and DeSiard. Signs indicated that it once housed the 10th Street Social Club, the Standard Life Insurance Company of Louisiana, the Monroe Free Press (an African-American newspaper), Eddie’s Place and Hilliard’s Cafe. A sign at the entrance to the 10th Street Social Club stated that any women with weapons would be turned over to the police! The 1965 Monroe City Directory indicated that the building was the Roy-Miller Building, and that it was the site of a number of important businesses, clubs and professional offices for the African-American community in Monroe. It is a tragedy that it has been allowed to deteriorate.
Feeling that the Brandy House would take too long for breakfast, causing me to miss the Grambling Homecoming parade, I tried a new place instead in downtown Monroe called Lea’s of Lecompte. There were only a few people in there, but the breakfast was good, and then, with the sun out but the weather chilly, I headed westward toward Grambling.
At Ruston, I noticed that the road heading to Grambling past Rabb’s Steakhouse was backed up all the way to Cooktown Road, so I drove down through the Louisiana Tech campus instead and onto Highway 80. To my amazement, I was able to park for free on the street leading to the stadium, and from there I walked across the campus where large crowds had already gathered to watch the parade, especially in front of the Favrot Student Union and on the quadrangle.
There were even more people along Main Street in the Village, and a cacophony of sounds from the intersection of Main and Martin Luther King Avenue, where the Grambling State University band and a number of high school bands were warming up and getting ready for the parade. As the parade got underway, the weather began to get warmer. There were a number of high school bands, one that had come all the way from Detroit, Michigan, and a huge RV decorated with Barack Obama banners which drew cheers from the crowds along the route.
I walked along the parade route, starting at the north end of Main, near the new Spivey’s Fried Chicken, and ending up near where Martha Adams Hall had been at Central Avenue and RWE Jones Drive, near the gate to the stadium. There the Fair Park marching band from Shreveport began to battle the Madison High School band from Tallulah, and they soon drew a crowd, playing songs back and forth. I walked back to the student union area, where there was a Starbucks, and I bought a latte and relaxed there before walking back over to the stadium for the game. Around the stadium were all kinds of RVs and tailgaters, some with old-school DJs playing southern soul and blues hits, and with the tantalizing smell of barbecue drifting over the area.
By the kickoff, the weather had finally warmed up enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable outside, but Alabama State had not brought their marching band to Grambling, so there was no battle, and Grambling’s band could only play sporadically because of new SWAC conference rules that restrict when bands can play. Grambling won the game, and afterwards, realizing the traffic gridlock that would follow for at least an hour, I decided to walk back over onto the campus.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Drive had turned into a rolling street party, much like the seawall used to in Galveston during the Texas Beach Party in its heyday. Customized and candy-painted cars were everywhere, with booming systems and people hanging out on the sidewalks. The police would not let people leaving the game turn left to head back north through the crowds thronging the street, but they were u-turning in the street south of Tiger Village and then heading back up through the crowd. As I stood on the sidewalk, I heard somebody yell “J-DOGG! I see you, homie!” and it was DJ Bay Bay from Shreveport, who was riding with his homeboy in a blue-and-white custom Chevy. He yelled that he was in Dallas now, and then he had gone on down the street.
The crowds seemed more like the big homecomings of the 90’s, and I walked back onto the campus. Amazingly, Main Street, although it had its share of crowds, seemed far quieter than the busy boulevard to the west. Only up at the quadrangle was there a large crowd, and it proved to be the fraternities and sororities, standing and holding hands on their hills. As the Que-Dogs were gathered there singing songs, the boom of drums announced that the Grambling band was coming, and they soon marched in front of Long Jones Hall, heading across the quad and toward Dunbar Hall. Everyone soon lined up to see them, and though the band marched into the band room, the drumline, known as Chocolate Thunder, stayed out on the quad to entertain the crowd that had gathered. They played several funky cadences for the people, and then they too disappeared into the bandroom.
Even after an hour, I had difficulty in maneuvering my way out of Grambling and on the way back toward Monroe. I had decided to eat at the Waterfront Grill, but traffic nearby was thick, because the University of Louisiana at Monroe was playing their homecoming game as well. After a filet mignon dinner, I drove back over to the Corner Coffeehouse for a chocolate-peanut-butter brownie and a latte, and then I stopped by the West Monroe Civic Center to meet Gravedigga, who was DJ-ing a high school dance.
From there, I drove one last time to Grambling to see what was happening on the campus, but aside from a crowd of people at the new Plush Sports Bar, things had quieted down considerably.
Back in Monroe, I stopped by Club Envy on Catalpa to leave promo CDs with DJ Phat, and then I did the same at Club Dominos, where the DJ was visiting from Baton Rouge. Finally,thoroughly tired, I returned to the room and went to bed.