February 15, 2021
(Photos and memories from Sunday February 10, 2013)
I’m in Mobile, Alabama and Mardi Gras is going on all around me.
Dauphine Street is Mobile’s Bourbon Street, lined with bars and second story patios for looking down on the party below. It’s still morning but the street is busy with drinkers. Rain is expected today; sorry for the gray-sky photos but it couldn’t be helped.
Technically speaking, it’s not Mardi Gras but Joe Cain Day in Mobile. The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is reserved for Mr. Cain’s memory – a man who basically started the Mardi Gras tradition in this town many decades ago. The holiday has come to mean parades and family entertainment.
The highlight of these parades is the opening float, reserved for the Merry Widows of Joe Cain. These ladies, dressed all in black and wearing veils to keep their identities secret, wail for the memory of poor long-gone Joe Cain and compensate by throwing the crowds strings of black beads, the most coveted throw in Mobile’s Mardi Gras. I caught a few strands of the blacks, but I also caught a few smacks on the head with throws I didn’t see coming. Some of these were small Moon Pies, a favorite throw here in Mobile.
I also got a Merry Widow’s drinking cup:
Afterwards, I’m at a bar called T.P. Crockmiers, on a barstool, bloody mary in front of me, eggs benedict ordered with a complementary glass of champagne expected to follow. I trying to work off a headache caused by too many Moon Pies aimed at my head. My drink came in a plastic cup (suitable for take-out), adorned with lime and lemon slices, a celery top, and two pickled okra skewered by a toothpick. One is always well taken care of in the South.
For those who prefer quiet museums to raucous parades, Mobile has just the place for you.
Mobile was founded in 1702 and was designated capital of French “Louisiane” in 1711 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville. So Mobile does have a French heritage that goes with its Mardi Gras celebrations. Le Sieur de Bienville has a memorial in Bienville Square in the center of town.
The Spanish controlled Mobile after the French. They’re remembered in Spanish Plaza, a few blocks from Bienville Square. These beautful porcelain park benches must have been gifts from the Spanish cities named on the benches.
With both French and Spanish heritage, Catholicism is well-represented in Mobile.
There are two twin skyscrapers in Mobile and both are hotels, at least partially. Nevertheless, this is a growing city, the kind of place businesses are looking to build in. The twin buildings are the RSA Tower and the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza (according to Google Maps). They are here:
The late, great Hank Aaron was one of Mobile’s favorite sons. Hammerin’ Hank has a baseball park named for him in Mobile, called Hank Aaron Stadium. He is also remembered downtown with the Hank Aaron Loop.
The city is situated on Mobile Bay, an important estuary of the Gulf of Mexico, so Mobile has always had a military presence — especially a naval one.
The Mobile County Courthouse is a new and modern 7-story glass structure. Their website expresses extreme pride for the building, saying how its open atrium draws people in instead of intimidating them the way traditional structures might. I don’t like that attitude so much; I appreciate a little grandeur in courthouses.
I’ll leave you with a photo of the clean up after Mardi Gras. Who knows, perhaps they are still cleaning up today?
All photos taken by the author.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.