Mardi Gras seemed a simpler thing. It wasn't so much a tourist attraction, as a big block party, a city wide block party, a regional block party even.
When I was a kid, doubloons were the rage. In grammar school during carnival time, kids would bring big binders of doubloons in to class to compare and trade, to brag about...
and to sneer at.
Westbank parades were sneered at (even if...ok, probably because...we were on the westbank).
A Rex doubloon, however, was gold, literally and figuratively. The uptowners were notoriously uptight with the throws.
I, however, was never much interested in doubloons. I liked the beads.....but especially the old plastic beads, the ones threaded with multicolor separate plastic beads, not the new fused-on-the-string beads that were tossed out by the gross.
But most of all, I coveted the the glass beads of yore, beautiful beads hand strung by poor communist babushka clad serfs in Czechoslovakia or Poland or somewhere equally mysterious.
These were rare in city parades, since most krewe members bought their throws fresh every year, keeping current and avoiding shame, but the country parades....and sometimes the suburban ones...were ahead of their time in recycling. Sometimes they'd throw beads from decades before. I've seen a few in recent years, and I hope they come back, but I doubt they ever will....expense, law suits, etc.
I once remember as a young child, at a parade down the bayou in which my uncles rode their horses, catching a fragile string of mercury glass beads, already partially broken. Visiting the country parades always yielded the most glass beads, and the best moonpies and the best bubble gum. A few decades later, I remember seeing the twin of those very beads in a museum, dating from the 1890s.
Anyway, like most things from my childhood, much of this stuff has been lost, but digging around my mother's attic a few weeks ago, I found a few remaining ones.