In 1937, Morgan City became known as the "jumbo" shrimp capitol of the world. 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. This was the inception of the Louisiana Shrimp Festival, the state's oldest chartered harvest festival.
One of the few places we went while we were living there in 1960 was to Morgan City for the 23rd Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet. 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 watch the boats parading under us and take photos.
Following the blessing, the celebration traveled to Egle's Place for a fais-do-do, a Cajun dance. In the 205 Shop that was advertised in the guide I had, the lady there told us that they still had the Blessing of the Fleet and they still 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 and has been renamed the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival.
It celebrated 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.
I 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 and came back across the old bridge (with a sign saying it was the Allen-Long bridge.
We eventually found Mannys. The inside was dark green and the tables had plastic checkered tablecloths. There was a big American flag hanging inside. Bob had a triple decker club sandwich which looked very nice for $5.95.
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, white beans, brown and white rice, green beans, buttered squash, hush puppies, 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).
When I was in college, I saw the film "All the King's Men" about Huey Long. So in 1960, when were living in Louisiana, and I saw all the OK Allen bridges, I got "Louisiana Hayride" (the book on which the movie was loosely based) out of the library and read it. When we got to Morgan City the second time in 2004, they were filming the remake of "All the King's Men"
We also went out to Brownell Park on our second visit, and saw the (free) Brownell Memorial Park carillon. I was interested in hearing the bell tower.
The carillon is in an 106 foot tower and has 61 bronzebells - 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 in harmony.
However, when we talked to the guy at the visitor's center and asked him if he sounded the bells from the keyboard behind him, he answered that they are played by a machine in the corner which looked 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. This was disappointing. We walked out to the tower and then went back to town.
According to the website:The Brownell Memorial Park and Campanile is the gift of Mrs. Claire Horatio Brownell, a member of one of Louisiana's pioneer families. The 9.5 acre park shows the many various plants and trees that grow abundantly wild along the ridges of these swamps - palmettos, elephant ears, cattails, fern, many varieties of iris and other flowers, moss-laden oaks, berry vines, cypress, and tupelo.
We also drove out to see the "Mr Charlie Rig Museum" (the International Petroleum Museum and Exposition). The first offshore oil rig that was stationed out of sight of land was 43 miles south of Morgan City in 1947. This museum is the only place where folks can walk aboard an authentic offshore oil rigTour Times Monday - Saturday10:00 AM and 2:00 PM
We were here about 1:45, but I wasn't sure that I really wanted to wait nor that I wanted to climb on an oil rig. So we just took a photo of it. 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.
We drove back across the bridge on the way to New Iberia