I haven't been to the new location of Rock 'N' Bowl on Carrollton Avenue yet, but I want to know what happened to the murals when the owners moved.
You've just got to go and see for yourself. Really, anyone who hasn't seen these cool works of art needs to go to Rock 'N' Bowl if only for that reason, then stay for the fun.
The murals created by Tony Green in 1991 have been moved to their new home. Some were painted on Sheetrock, so they were easier to move; others were on plaster. It took the effort of many men to transport the art to the new building.
The biggest piece, a re-creation of the old Pelican Stadium that used to be on the corner of Carrollton and Tulane avenues, is in two parts. One panel shows a typical day with baseball fans in the bleachers. The other is the outfield, and all along the ballpark wall are signs advertising businesses, some that no longer exist: Maison Blanche department store, Kolb's Restaurant, the Home Plate Inn and the World Famous Mid-City Lanes.
Another painting depicts Pete Fountain standing on the porch of a house. He is jamming on his clarinet with Professor Longhair on piano and Tony Green playing guitar. Also on the porch are two women dancing to the music. Joining in the fun is a young boy playing his trumpet.
The fourth piece shows a typical corner bar in the old days, probably about 50 years ago. The sign advertises dancing on Saturday night and tells us to "Drink Jax," which we did when we could get it.
Before Rock 'N' Bowl, there was the Mid-City Lanes & Sports Palace, one of the city's premier recreation spots throughout the 1940s and '50s. Across the street, at the intersection of Carrollton and Tulane avenues where a Burger King is now, was Pelican Stadium, also known as Heinemann Park, where the New Orleans Pelicans baseball team played for more than 40 years. Because of its location, the bowling alley was very convenient and popular. But when the stadium was demolished in 1958, folks stopped going to the old-fashioned bowling alley.
Life was restored to the almost-dead place, however, when John Blancher took over Mid-City Lanes in 1988. A year and more hard work than anyone can imagine later, the first band was hired and Rock 'N' Bowl was born. Johnny J. and the Hit Men, a local rockabilly group, played the first official Rock 'N' Bowl night at Mid-City in November 1989.
As you know, the place became more popular than ever. But everything changes with time, and 20 years later there was a big change for Blancher and Rock 'N' Bowl. His lease on the building where the bowling alley and music venue was located had come to an end, and Blancher decided to move. Right down Carrollton Avenue, an old Helm paint facility became available, so Blancher bought the building and created a fantastic new Rock 'N' Bowl with modern lanes, a stage, a bar and a dance floor.
The new establishment at the intersection of South Carrollton Avenue and Earhart Boulevard is next door to another New Orleans institution: Ye Olde College Inn, a restaurant also owned by the Blancher family.
When the new Rock 'N' Bowl opened in April, just in time for the Jazz & Heritage Festival, Johnny J. and the Hit Men were there to christen the new room.