For the more than 900,000 teenagers and young adults in South Louisiana’s Bayou Region, much of the thriving youth culture scene of past decades has disappeared.
Bars, clubs, entertainment, and hangouts are now few and far between.
“My friends and I would always go to the skating rink for lock-ins to have a good time; but now it has been converted into some apartment buildings and a church,” says Rebecca Davis, who grew up in Morgan City in the ’80s. “There isn’t much now for our grandchildren to do.”
The skating rink was called the Skate Connection and it is just one rink out of 30 in the Bayou Region that has closed or been renovated into something new.
Gordon Vinning, who grew up in Patterson and has been a DJ since 1989, says his favorite activity growing up was playing “tag” with his friends, driving around in their beat-up old pickups and using CB radios to find each other.
“[It was] a unique group of kids that just wanted to have fun, cut up, and be kids,” he says. “It didn’t matter what school you came from, what background you had or how much money you had, the CB club was made up of kids from all walks of life.”
The CB Club inspired Vinning to become a DJ where he played in some of the bars and clubs that no longer exist.
Vinning says one reason for some of the bar closures is the shift in the type of music that bar owners made the DJ’s play. In the ’90s, DJ’s would play more than one type of music so everyone in the crowd, no matter their age, could have a good time. But over the years, he says he was only allowed to play the newer music for the younger crowd.
“When there is no older crowd, there is less revenue entering the establishment because most college aged kids don’t have much money,” Vinning says.
According to the U.S. Census, Louisiana’s population ages 5 to 34 has only decreased 1 percent in the last 10 years. And with nearly 929,000 still in the Bayou Region, youth culture still exists, just not the physical places they once gathered.
Stephanie Baran, a sociology professor at Nicholls State University, says much like the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, the loss of youth activities can be connected to the ebb and flow of supply and demand.
Baran says the shift that we’re seeing of people moving to bigger places for “stuff to do, people to meet and things to see.”
“[It’s not so different from] the Industrial Revolution when the agricultural workers were moving to the cities for higher paying jobs,” Baran says. “This shift we’re seeing now is just sort of a digital version.”
History has shown that people move to larger cities for more job opportunities. Likewise, the digital shift in today’s world has caused many millennials to move to bigger cities where there are more things to do, she says.
“Economics are the main driver as to why some of these places no longer exist.”
In this issue of Garde Voir Ci, the Lost Bayou series will revisit the lost places of youth culture in the Bayou Region.