OPELOUSAS, La. — Built in the late 1940s, The Southern Club was one of the musical hot spots along Highway-190 in Opelousas. But earlier this week came a tough reminder of the battle between the past and the present.
You can still see the 'S' and 'O' and the 'U' on the front roof of the crumbling structure. Back in the Fifties and for the next few decades, those letters were illuminated, and The Southern Club was one of the places to be.
"You have to remember, back in the day before I-10, Highway 190 was the major route between New Orleans and Houston," begins St. Landry Parish Tourism Director Herman Fuselier, "so you had thousands of people up and down this road. Lots of musicians through the years--Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Freddy Fender--they all played here."
"This was in my family, it was in my heart, it was in my blood," recalls Ronald Credeur, a family member of founder Chick Vidrine. "As a bartender, all my family worked here."
Built in 1949, the club shut down in the mid-nineties, was left unoccupied for a number of decades and then, only a few days ago, came a sad reminder of the passage of time.
"I figure it was just a matter of time before nature took its course," surmises Fuselier, who included The Southern Club in his (and co-author Philip Gould's book, Ghosts of Good Times), "and we see that this week, where the front just collapsed and the back is still standing, time and temperature, Father Time and the elements have taken a toll on the place."
For Credeur, who worked and hung out at The Southern Club since the age of 15, this week's collapse struck him hard. "I knew it was coming down but I didn't think it was going to be this fast. (breaks your heart?) yes it does. It really breaks my heart to see this."
Efforts to save the structure have come and gone over the years, and now, there are only memories... of some really fine moments.
"People talk about, too, their parents met each other here, their grandparents, danced here all the time," adds Fuselier, "so fmuch family history in this area, and The Southern Club was included in a lot of that."
My thanks to photographer extraordinaire Philip Gould, he supplied a lot of the images you saw in the piece. What happens next to The Southern Club? Some tough decisions have to be made.
But man, what a history.
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