It’s hard for me to believe, but quite soon it will be 11 years since Mary and I retired to Natchitoches from the New Orleans area.
We had escaped all but minor damage from Hurricane Katrina, with no flooding at all, but everyone at that time was saying how the fierce storms were going to be more frequent and more powerful. So, I didn’t want to be an old man worried every summer and early fall about having my house blown away by Hurricane Whoever. Thank God there have been no major storms in our area since then, but hey, it could happen again next year. Who knows?
So, having been acquainted with Natchitoches in previous visits, and having fallen in love with its charm and history, I posed the question to my spouse on one of our visits after Katrina, “Don’t you think this would be a good place to retire?”
And the rest is history. History from the last 11 years, at any rate.
In some ways the town has changed very little in the last decade, and in some ways that’s very good. It retains its unique beauty, its history going back to colonial days and some very cool museums as well as some good places to eat.
Some of the changes in the last 11 years are also for the better. We have a new form of parish government, having gone from the old Police Jury to a Parish Council and president, and I think that’s also very good. I think some old time residents need to understand that government under the new parish charter can be made to be much more efficient than the old Police Jury system and that different outlooks are sometimes needed.
For many years I covered the Jefferson Parish Council and president and believe me, the system can work and work well. Not that Jefferson didn’t have its share of problems, but a modern system of government is needed for these modern times. Jefferson is much larger and more urban than Natchitoches Parish, but the principle of efficient government still holds.
I think we have some good elected officials, who are dedicated to improvements, but they must be given time.
Commercial change is also inevitable and a couple of my favorite little neighborhood restaurants that flourished a decade ago are no longer around. But new eateries have opened up and Mary and I still enjoy going out to lunch and dinner a lot.
One of the most notable additions to our town is the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. I must admit, I’m still not quite used to its architecture, but it’s a great place to visit if you love sports and/or history. The staff is working hard to put on interesting programs and new foundation CEO Ronnie Rantz has some neat ideas he wants to run with.
Too many people around the state are not aware of this special attraction and Ronnie wants to change that.
What can I say about Fort St. Jean Baptiste, the exact replica of the early 18th century French fort here. I love that place and it’s a true time machine and a real asset to Natchitoches.
I do miss the Old Courthouse Museum, but the great old late Victorian structure is still open to members of the public who want to research their ancestry at the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association library. Check them out, the very helpful volunteers are ready to assist you.
We still have our frequent festivals and, of course, Christmas. The Christmas Festival keeps the economic wheels of Natchitoches turning. Some business owners on Front Street are concerned about the flat economy and lagging sales, but a couple of projects to increase tourism are in the works and may be able to turn that around.
NSU, naturally, is the main year-round economic mainstay for Natchitoches. Even with all of the cutbacks in the state higher education budget, campus officials are doing their best to offer the best education that their money will allow.
So, we’re glad to be part of this very traditional yet still changing little city. I can’t say I don’t miss the New Orleans area, but Natchitoches, which outsiders will never learn to pronounce on the first try, is a pretty neat place to hang our hats.