Small-Town Life
Southern Living,  Apr 2004  by Parker, Melanie


Even city slickers can step back in time in this hamlet on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Slidell, Louisiana, is a nostalgic trip-a place and a time worth revisiting. As an excursion from New Orleans, just 30 minutes south, or a stop en route from Texas to the Florida Panhandle on I-10 or 1-12, this modern-day Mayberry on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain will lead you down memory lane.

The Scoop and the Scoops

With an authentic ice-cream parlor atmosphere, a 1947 Ford fire engine pressed into service for birthday parties, and its collection of 400 vintage and contemporary scoops (the oldest circa 1876), the Old Town Slidell Soda Shop harkens back to simpler times. Ice-cream sodas and snow balls (a Louisiana creation made with shaved ice and flavoring) are among the shop's treats. "We make more memories than anything else," says Frank Jackson, owner and principle soda jerk. "Every day someone tells me they appreciate that we are here." 301 Cousin Street, (985) 649-4806 or www.slidellsodashop. com.

For the best gossip, stop by Cornibe's Barber Shop, where Lou Cornibe III has been giving his buddies buzz cuts for more than 50 years. In a one-room cottage built in 1932, the jokes fly. "We're the good, the bad, and the ugly," says Mike Moore, whose domain is the middle chair. "I'm good, he's bad, and he's ugly." "That's his opinion," says Lou. Though they don't cut women's hair, we seem to be the main topic. "Is there anything better?" Lou asks with a wink. 1932 First Street, (985) 643-9139.


Antiques and More

Next door to Cornibe's, "doll doctor" Kristy Neal brings little girls' friends back to life-replacing missing fingers and toes, restyling wigs, and repairing broken bisque. "I repair damaged memories," she says. Her shop, Treasured Collectibles, also sells antique and collectible dolls. I found Hummel bisque figures like the ones my grandmother brought me from Germany ($100), a Charlie's Angels lunchbox ($35), and an original Shirley Temple composition doll ($900). "We have something in here that almost anyone can remember from their childhood," Kristy says. 1928 First Street, (985) 646-6077 or www. treasured-collectibles. com.

Nearby at Nanny's Quilting Niche, Blanche Nichols teaches a variety of quilting classes ($5 to $30) and offers "anything you need to begin or finish a quilt." 7922 First Street, (985) 649-4411.

Slidell 's annual Antique Street Fair (April 17 and 18 this year) animates an eight-block area already known for about a dozen shops. Among the finds year-round at Barbara's Victorian Closet (124 Erlanger Street) are architectural salvage, antique jewelry, and Victorian furnishings. Unique pottery and mission furniture can be sniffed out at First Street Antiques (1960 First Street).

That Lonesome Sound

The call of a train whistle has sparked the imagination of many a small-town boy and girl. Cherishing their train depot, the folks in Slidell renovated the historic 1909 structure on Front Street, which now houses the Slidell Art League gallery and gift shop (open Thursday through Sunday) and the Times Bar & Grill, a local lunch favorite. (The Bella Burger with its giant grilled portobello mushroom is delicious, as are the Crabmeat Pepper Poppers, each for $6.99.) The depot's Beignet Station is the place to watch the New Orleans-bound freight trains rumble by and to enjoy a game of chess, hot beignets, and a frozen lemonade.

Those trains also serve as inspiration for the lonesome-sounding blues of musicians such as Grammy Awardwinner Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. If you're lucky, Clarence, who is a Slidell resident, will be playing at Smoke-n-Blues BBQ just across from the depot. be sure to try the beef brisket plate ($7.75). 1768 Front Street, (985) 643-6463.

Parks and Music

"We're one of the safest towns in Louisiana," says Mayor Ben Morris, Slidell's gregarious former police chief. Ben is proud of the community effort that built a playground in Heritage Park, where free concerts are held from 6 to 8 p.m. every other Sunday March through May. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs a free concert here on Saturday, May 1, at 7 p.m. Also in May you can catch noon brown-bag concerts on Friday in Griffith Park. For information call (985) 646-4375.

So you think you can't go home again? This town may just take you right back to your childhood.

MELANIE PARKER

Lodging: We recommend Garden Guest House Bed and Breakfast, where Bonnie and Paul Taliancich will send you home with a pass-along bromeliad. Rates range $95-$ 110; (985) 641-0335 or www.gardenbb. com. For more information: Contact the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission at 1-800-634-9443 or www. neworleansnorthshore.com.

Copyright Southern Progress Corporation Apr 2004
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