by Lyndsey Beaulieu
In this week’s episode, “This City,” Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) takes his daughter Davina (Edwina Findley) on a tour of the “Seb’m Ward,” and shares many of his childhood memories with her. I’ve heard the stories many times over -- not because I work on the show -- but because they are my dad’s memories of growing up in the Creole 7th Ward.
Over the summer, writer and executive producer George Pelecanos approached me about talking to my dad – the show wanted to give Lambreaux some of that same history. When I read the script for the first time, it was more than just a 7th Ward anecdote thrown in here and there. It was my dad on the page. Instead of Lambreaux, I heard my dad retelling the stories of “Crazy Roy,” “The Ragman,” and “Coupon Bread.” I’ve been hearing about “Coupon Bread” since childhood and the days spent at my Maw Maw’s house on Pauger St. and Duels, the very same streets referenced by Lambreaux.
Just before the episode aired, I let my dad take a peek at the script so he could see just how much his conversation with George Pelecanos influenced the character of Lambreaux. For me, one story in particular stands out from the episode, because my dad never shared it with me before:
Me and my daddy were riding the Elysian Fields bus. Mr. Buddy, the white man who was friends with my daddy, also got on the bus. It was crowded in the front, so he sat next to us behind the ‘Colored Only’ sign. The driver stopped the bus and walked all the way to the back to tell Mr. Buddy he couldn’t sit there. Buddy refused to get up, said we were his friends, and he got off that bus. We got off too, and walked the rest of the way. Buddy exemplified how white and black folks got along back then -- we worked together, played together, and lived side by side -- only the law kept us apart. We lived all around white people and I can’t remember anyone ever showing any prejudice. I can’t speak to how it was in the rest of the city because I didn’t grow up there -- that’s just how it was in 7th Ward. I think we’re more divided today than we were then.
My dad’s childhood stories becoming Lambreaux’s isn’t the only connection he has to ‘Treme.’ He had the chance to try out his acting chops in episode 2 of the first season, ‘Meet De Boys on the Battlefront,’ where he appeared as George Cotrell’s (Otto DeJean) nosy ‘neighbor.’ His scene that day was with Clarke Peters, and from the minute the two met, an instant bromance was formed.
This week’s episode will go down as one of my favorites and I’m probably not the only one. There’s an entire community of people who grew up in the 7th Ward and share many of the same memories as my dad. Thanks to ‘Treme,’ those memories will live on forever.