In the 1950s, the roller rink in the Lower 9th Ward played pop hits. But the songs were stripped of all danger and longing. They didn’t blast from a radio. They were played on an organ. A church organ.
More than 50 years later, when most of the events of his youth no longer make sense, Alvin Beauboeuf remembers the organ playing in that rink, how it would draw his mother out to come watch him skate. She loved those organ tunes, slow enough the roller skaters could keep time as they circled. “The organs kept everyone kind of calm,” Beauboeuf remembered.
Outside of the rink, nothing was calm.
His father had died when the Beauboeuf was 13. Beauboeuf tried to avoid the high-school gangs. He learned to hustle and got a job working for a guy who worked for Carlos Marcello. And somewhere along the way got mixed up in something that now makes no more sense to him than it did in those years.
It was the stuff that got him questioned, bribed and tapped as a key witness in a New Orleans investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And what does Beauboeuf think put him in the middle of history? “It was the skating they wanted me for,” said Beauboeuf, now a freight broker living in Chalmette, a conservative man who wears a loose cotton shirt printed with illustrations of Navy vessels bombed in Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Yes, it was the skating that would land Beauboeuf a page in history. “Typical,” he said.
Read on, soldier!