Stories – My First Time in New Orleans Years Ago

I have a lot of stories. Just ask the people I work with and if I am around watch them slink away if there is the slightest possibility that I am going to tell another one like I am about to now.


Audubon Park

I just got back from New Orleans from a convention. My first trip was in 1977 when I was graduating with an Engineering Degree from the University of the New Mexico. (aka “Harvard on the Rio Ground” or “MIT on the Mesa” as it is known, at least to me.) You may remember 1977. Oil prices were heading out the roof and I had sixteen job offers including a blind offer from Gulf Oil Corporation. Yep, they sent me a job offer by mail with my choice of location.


MIssissippi River at New Orleans

They had locations all over the place and I sure wanted to avoid west Texas so they sent me to New Orleans for a tour there. I flew in from Albuquerque and stayed at a downtown hotel and the next morning went to their office and talked to an engineering manager and he told me what the deal was. The deal was that I would spend a year or two working out of the office in Quarantine Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. The thing was that I would live in New Orleans and drive down there in a company care with three other engineers. So I said,”….uh okay….” not that I was agreeing. So he said that I was going to go down there and tour the areas.


I was wearing my finest (and only) polyester sport coat, tie, and slacks and said “….uh okay….” and he introduced me to an engineer who had been doing this and so we went to the parking garage and off we went. Going down he was all professional and all that. I am not sure how far we drove but memory (which is very unreliable) tells me it was about 40 miles or south of New Orleans. We were driving along the main channel of the river and after a while noticed that the ships in the river were above where we were and my guide said, yep. We were below sea level.


So we went to our destination and got out of the car and onto a workboat and traveled further down the river. It was February, if memory serves me,and quite foggy and I was like really interested in the radar and all that. The Cajun crew was smirking at me in my finest polyester duds but there was nothing I could do about that. So we went down the river and through a lock off the river into Quarantine Bay and then motored over to the Gulf’s office which was basically an elevated barge run up on a mudbar in the bay.


The water was only a few feet deep and there were dozens of oil wells scattered here and about. They were just basically well casings sticking out the the water with wooden guards surrounding them. This was Gulf’s oil field in the area. So we climbed the stairs up to the office and had some coffee and talked about what was going on and then we walked down the stairs to a smaller boat and motored around to a workout rig working on one of the wells. A wire line crew was working on the rig replacing gas lift mandrels (don’t ask, doesn’t matter) and they were all Cajuns with blue jumpsuits being very polite with the guy from New Mexico with his polyester duds and tie.


This is the Dauphin field in Mobile Bay, Alabama

So we went back to the office where the crew had cooked some red beans and rice. They gave me a bunch of crap but I had worked three summers in the oilfields of the Permian Basin and had realized that the best way to handle crap is just to take it gracefully and so I took it and everything went okay and they all shook my hand when it come time to leave and I think I made an okay impression with these guys.

Street Car Street Scene

So the time came to go back to New Orleans and off we went and here was where the surprise came, or at least the first surprise. My guide and I stopped about every fifteen minutes on the way back at various beer joints. And the bartenders knew my guide, and he knew them!! So we drank a beer there at the bar and took one to go and off we went to the next joint. He said that this was part of the training program. So we stopped at at three or four places so as we drove across the big bridge into New Orleans I had a pretty good buzz on.


I was thinking we were going on to the airport but no. The second surprise was that management wanted to talk to me. Uh!!! Uh oh!!! So we went back to the office and I got to talk to the big cheese engineering manager and he talked and talked and droned on and on and then he yapped some more and I had reverted to the polite guy from New Mexico with the polyester duds and tie and then FINALLLLLLLY he asked if I had any more questions. I did! I asked if I could use the restroom.


So I made a big impression with Gulf Oil. I had worked summers though with Mobil and they agreed to let me work on the Gulf Coast instead of Permian Basin. So it all worked out. I still remember my day with the Cajuns in the bay and how exotic it was to this guy in his polyester sport coat, slacks, and tie.

Quarentine Bay Screenshot

Screen shot showing New Orleans at the top and Quarantine Bay at the bottom.

5 thoughts on “Stories – My First Time in New Orleans Years Ago

  1. Barb

    I liked your story! We all wore polyester back in the day. (I still do.) So – is that when you started your love affair with beer?

  2. Janie

    Great story! I lived in New Orleans 1968-1974, and I still love to go back. That first pic from Audubon park brings back a lot of memories. Steve asked me to marry him under a huge tree limb much like that one.

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