Recreation and Rowdyism in Early Palmer Park

Stop 8 of 14 in the Palmer Park tour

Palmer Park, despite its status as a public space, has faced much resistance from nearby residents in allowing sports and recreation in the 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. 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 also feared "rowdyism" that they argued would be associated with sports. A 1927 Times Picayune article noted nearby residents calling the police because kids were playing football in the park.

One Carrolltonian, Mr. Moors, in a letter to the editor in the Times Picayune in 1929, wrote that women and children were "virtually barred from the park now by the rowdyism of football and 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 games and also had discussed the matter, unsatisfactorily, with the police.

A 1936 article went even further in its views on youth and rowdyism. Youth had been suspected of previously breaking lights in the park and acts of vandalism had been constant. The author was incredulous someone could continue to 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 because it was viewed as a more refined activity and one played by adults, not by children. 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 games were held every evening, mostly involving other high ranking officials from the bank. 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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