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New Orleans Most Talked Of Club: Proudly Westbank, As Other Krewes Relocate To St. Charles Ave.

20150213NOMTOC.jpg
Michael Patrick Welch
/
WWNO

One of the last West Bank krewes, NOMTOC, parades in Algiers this Saturday, February 14. The acronym for this this almost 60-year-old mostly African-American krewe stands for New Orleans Most Talked Of Club.

Michael Patrick Welch spent time with New Orleans Most Talked of Club, for more on their traditions and community.

Few are more excited to ride this Mardi Gras season than the krewe of NOMTOC. NOMTOC, stands for “New Orleans’s Most Talked of Club.” But then you say you’ve never heard of ‘em?

“That’s probably a combination of their ambition, and a name. They wanted to be known, they wanted people to recognize who they were.”

That’s James Henderson Jr., NOMTOC's President since 2012, and a NOMTOC member for roughly 40 years.

NOMTOC formed in 1951 on the West Bank, in Algiers. Racial issues, claims Henderson, kept the krewe from getting a parade permit until 1970.

“It was an outlet for African Americans,” Henderson explains. “They didn’t have an outlet over here. There was the Krewe of Alla, but we didn’t participate, we weren’t welcome to that. There was the Krewe of Chocktaw; we weren’t welcome to that. So yes, they were doing it for themselves.”

Today, NOMTOC remains proudly working class. Participation is open to everyone, with fees under $500 per year. As a result, the parade club boasts over 400 members of all races and genders.

But only the 65 African American male Executive Board members belong to NOMTOC’s Jugs Social Club. President Henderson explains the origins of the Jugs.

“Their first party they had little brown jugs, and the theme is the little brown jug… And that was it.” Henderson laughs. “I think it alludes probably to drinking.”

Despite the boozy logo, NOMTOC prides itself on family values. In the tradition of Rex and Zulu, the Jugs award scholarships to community students, among other altruistic efforts.

“Our clubhouse is open to the community at certain times. When we do the back to school rally it’s open to the public, when we do the bike giveaway, the picnic is open, the back to school rally, the health fair,” Henderson says. “But it’s to the point now that when people see us out on the porch they think they can just come participate.”

NOMTOC remains one of the only krewes that still parade on the West Bank. Over the years the West Bank Krewes of Cleopatra, Chocktaw, King Arthur and Alla all moved to the St. Charles parade route. “The businesses in those areas wanted to parade where their businesses were,” says Henderson. “That’s what parading was about.”

NOMTOC Treasurer Nolan McSwain bemoans the centralization. “Now the St Charles route is it… Used to be you didn’t have to leave your neighborhood to see a quality parade. But then one by one they fell, for various reasons.”

Henderson believes we won’t be seeing any new West Bank parades in the near future.

“The powers that be, affiliated with the Mardi Gras commission, have decided for whatever reason that they’d like to limit the parades to 30,” he says. “I strongly disagree with that. Like the Krewe of Athena, I went to their ball last night. Beautiful presentation by some professional women… But they won’t allow their parade in the city. Though they’re all Orleans Parish-based people, they have to take their parade to Jefferson Parish.”

Henderson says if there is a plan afoot to move all the parades to St. Charles Ave., the Jugs won’t budge from Algiers. “They would have difficulty moving us,” Henderson says, “because someone would have to give up they spot. If they did it by seniority? Goodnight Tucks, and possibly Bacchus.”

NOMTOC’s clubhouse presides over the intersection where Newton St. becomes General Meyer Ave., right beside Federal City. The area recently got a facelift, getting new curbs and new-retro streetlights, just as the Jugs bought the meeting hall across from the clubhouse. As millions of dollars begin to pour into Federal City construction, the Jugs are poised to establish an even stronger presence in their neighborhood.

The Jugs use this community sway to enrich the culture of Algiers. Though not directly affiliated, the Jugs publicly welcome the West Bank’s lone Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Mohawk Hunters, to the NOMTOC clubhouse each Fat Tuesday.

“That was a community outreach we started,” explains Henderson. “They were trying to entertain this community on Mardi Gras and so we opened our doors and allowed them the opportunity to do that here. Indian tribes have difficulty finding stops, because they’ve been associated with — I’m not gonna say crime but, too much excitement, too much fun.”

On the Saturday before Mardi Gras, NOMTOC’s big ol’ parade will feature 21 floats and 12 marching bands. “We got supers and double-deckers, and we got some traditionals. But primarily supers and double-deckers that ride 50 and 30 respectively.”

Trina Scorza, the oldest of three generations of NOMTOC ladies, has ridden high atop a float since her daughter’s debut in 1995.

“We on the double decker, I ride on the top. You have to duck because the trees are coming,” she says.

As exciting as the experience is, Trina rides in NOMTOC each year because of the parade’s community atmosphere.

“You throw them a teddy bear they’ll give you a soft drink, they’ll give you some barbecue, it’s just so fun riding on the floats,” she says.

NOMTOC riders are notoriously not stingy with the trinkets. For the krewe’s 45th parade this year, Trina Scorza and James Henderson promise beaucoup NOMTOC branded throws:

Trina: “This year in NOMTOC we have cups, we have beads…”

Henderson: “We got lighted beads with our medallion on it, another set of beads that just have the Jugman on it…”

Trina: "Footballs, frisbees..."

Henderson: "The flex frisbee, that’s a new one — you can fold it up and unfold it, get about ten inches..."

Trina: "They got something new this year, the umbrellas..."

Henderson: "The headboppers..."

Trina: "Bobbleheads, the bracelets…"

Henderson: "And tambourines…oh and coozies…"

Trina’s granddaughter Thaila, who will take her second ride this year, loves watching the crowd fight over the nicer NOMTOC throws. The only thing she dislikes about riding is the mask she’s made to wear.

“I want them to know who I am, because if I see people I know, then they’ll know it’s me,” Thalia says. “They won’t think, ‘Who is this throwin this to me? These good stuff?’”

Thaila is simply expressing what NOMTOC’s founders knew long ago: people want to be seen. They want to be known in their communities. They want to be talked about — particularly during Mardi Gras.