Riding the Avenue

Alayna Yarwood Staff

For almost 40 years Donaldsonville was home to a popular teen hangout: Railroad Avenue.

Railroad Avenue was a half-mile-long road where teens like Nicki Boudreaux, Erin Theriot, and Leslie Tenney would spend hours riding up and down the road every Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday nights in the 1990s.

“On the weekends, when you wanted to do something with friends, you would get in a car, ride from the railroad tracks to the river, make a loop, and go back up and down,” says Boudreaux.

Everyone knew people would be at the avenue if it was a Friday or Saturday night.

“Riding the avenue,” as it was called, started before the 1960s and was carried on from generation to generation until the 1990s.

Cars riding the avenue would be filled to the max so sometimes people would need to sit on each other’s laps. Teens would make mixtapes to listen to while they rode up and down the avenue. Cars would flash their lights at other passing cars, signaling them to pull over and chat. The avenue was also how word spread about parties happening in the area.

While riding the avenue, teens would stop by The First & Last Chance Café, also known as “The Chance.”

Teens would grab a bite to eat at the cafe, open since 1921, then spend time outside and behind the restaurant. After football games, students would ride the avenue until curfew, which was sometimes 1 or 2 a.m.

“Riding the avenue and The Chance went hand in hand,” says Tenney. “It was the perfect location for people to get out of their car, talk in large groups, grab something to eat, and run in for a restroom break. It was tradition to write your name on the wall in that restroom.”

“Riding the avenue and The Chance went hand in hand.”

The Chance is still on the avenue and loved by many locals, however, the weekend tradition of riding the avenue was lost as years went by.

“There was starting to be a lot of fights and trouble,” says Theriot. “When the local police were tightening up security and patrols, the first rule that went into place was that there was no stopping at The Chance. That just about killed it for a lot of people. They also began to be very strict with the curfew laws. Obviously, they couldn’t ban folks from driving on the roads, but they did make it very hard to hang out when you weren’t inside of a vehicle.”