Pictured is Eugene Manuel as he sits in one of the original booths at the Holiday Lounge in Mamou, which his father T-Ed Manuel opened 60 years ago. The booths, which were originally in the old Archway Lounge in Opelousas, were purchased by T-Ed for the Holiday Lounge in the 1950’s. (Gazette photo by Elizabeth West)
Pictured is the Holiday Lounge when T-Ed’s business was in full swing. The hotel is seen to the back left, while the restaurant and lounge, built by Chester Landreneau, were attached in the building pictured in the front. Today, only the bar remains open. (Photo courtesy of Eugene Manuel)
Eugene Manuel prepares for his first night working at the Holiday on October 29, 1982, just three days after turning 18-year-old. (Photo courtesy of Eugene Manuel)
A Mamou holiday
It has been 60 years since the famed Holiday Lounge in Mamou first brightened the night sky with flashing lights that welcomed any and all looking to feel like they had escaped to a new world.
From its positioning along old Highway 13 on the outskirts of town to its unique decor such as a metal sun attached to the ceiling painted with black light paint, every inch of the lounge was an idea of T-Ed Manuel, who opened the Holiday on January 1, 1958.
Eugene Manuel, T-Ed’s son, said, “My dad always loved to visit New Orleans. Every time he took a trip there, he would pay attention to different things they had in the bars and lounges down there. Everything you see in the Holiday are ideas that my dad got from New Orleans. He liked different things, so he always looked for unique ideas to bring back home. That’s why people enjoyed the Holiday so much. They would come here, and they got to feel like they were away at a lounge in a place like New Orleans.”
One idea that T-Ed brought home that people enjoyed but didn’t last long was the creation of a room that allowed people to have private parties.
“In the 1960’s, you saw a lot of places in New Orleans with private party rooms,” said Eugene. “The people liked it at first because they could have some privacy, but eventually they realized that they couldn’t be nosey either if they were in the private room, so that ended quickly.”
The creative mind of T-Ed; however, dreamt up a new way to still allow his people the option to enjoy a rowdy night at the lounge, or a more quiet or intimate night at the Holiday’s restaurant, which was added to the bar in the late 1960’s.
Eugene said, “My dad wanted there to be something for everybody at the Holiday, and that’s why he added the restaurant. There was just a wall separating the bar from the restaurant, which made it like two bars in one.
“The restaurant was where you could go if you wanted to talk private with your girlfriend or wife, and on the other side you had the music and stuff. The older people could drink in the restaurant while the young people could be loud on the other side. My daddy wanted to make everybody comfortable and give everyone their own thing to enjoy.”
Eventually, a hotel was also added to the Holiday, which Eugene says was used as living quarters for the people working at the restaurant and bar.
As the 80’s approached, it was getting closer to Eugene’s turn to join the family business, which he still owns and operates today.
When his 18th birthday came around in 1982, ready or not, Eugene was given his chance to sink or swim.
“My dad kept getting me ready to start working with him,” said Eugene. “He’d say, ‘Okay now, you gonna be ready to help me when you turn 18? I’m gonna be busy, and so I’m going to need your help at the Holiday.’ He would always ask me that, and I’d tell him, ‘Well yea, daddy, I’m gonna be ready.’
“I was thinking he was going to slowly show me things. Three days after my 18th birthday, he told me, ‘I’m gonna need you to help me tonight.’ He threw me in the bar and said, ‘I’m going to New Orleans for the weekend. I’ll be back Sunday. Take care of everything while I’m gone.’”
Eugene, laughing, went on to say, “I didn’t even know how to make a drink, man. But, we all survived.”
Through the years, Eugene has made it his mission to preserve the Holiday so that people today are still able to enjoy what he says was his dad’s favorite bar out of the ones he owned, which included Manuel Bar on 6th Street in Mamou.
From the free standing bar to the sitting booths, nearly everything in the Holiday today was there when it first opened 60 years ago.
“My dad wanted everyone to feel important when they came here,” said Eugene. “That’s why he made it such a special and unique place, and that’s why I want to make sure it stays the same as it was back then.”