Recreation and Rowdyism in Early Palmer Park

Stop 4 of 7 in the Palmer Park tour

In the early 20th century Carrollton residents resisted attempts to permit sports recreation in Palmer Park, despite the fact that it was a public space. An effort to convert the park into a baseball field for the PSAL youth baseball league was defeated in 1918, as was an attempt by the city to add proposed swimming pools in 1924. A 1929 proposal to add tennis courts, favored by women but opposed by men; and a 1937 proposal by the mayor to add a wading pool were also defeated. The Times-Picayune agreed with the opposition to the tennis courts, arguing the park was a place of beauty and tennis courts were not beautiful. Neighbors were adamant about preserving the park as a tranquil space and keeping out sports and play. They feared the "rowdyism" associated with sports. A 1927 Times-Picayune article noted nearby residents calling the police because kids were playing football in the park.

Carrolltonian Mr. Moors wrote in a 1929 letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune that women and children were "virtually barred from the park now by the rowdyism of football and baseball players." He believed that these "rowdies" came from all over the city, arriving in vegetable and ice wagons, and played sports while "scantily clad." He suggested adding more trees to prevent game playing and discussed the matter with the police. A 1936 article complained that rowdy youths broke lights and committed other acts of destruction in the park. The author was incredulous someone would damage the park: "A man may steal for food, and he may commit deeds of violence through rage or revenge, but despoiling a public playground can give no satisfaction to any person except one possessed of so distorted a brain that its owners were better locked up."

One notable exception to the ban on sports was croquet, perhaps viewed as a more refined activity by the wealthy white elites who controlled this allegedly public space. The sport became a regular event in the park in 1928. Charles Williams, an employee of the New Orleans Federal Bank, introduced croquet to the city and first tried playing at Audubon Park. He moved the sport to Palmer Park because there were fewer people and he hosted games every evening with other high-ranking bank officials. Williams argued:

“There is no other game to equal croquet. In the first place, it takes real brain work…Then there’s plenty of exercise in it, too: some people seem to think it’s a game for old men and women, but after you’ve played a few hours you have had as much movement as anyone could need… It doesn’t matter what else you do or your hobby is, if you start playing croquet you will drop all other sports and play nothing but that.”

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