The House That Satch Built
The most memorable aspect of the tour is actually hearing Armstrong's sandpaper-against-gravel voice and experiencing his exuberant personality. With the push of a button in the wall there he is encouraging a child to recite Mother Goose or doing some misty-eyed reminiscing about the band he played in at the Waif's Home in New Orleans or blowing along with a record. One tour guide accurately pointed out that even Pops' everyday speech sounded like improvisation. And Dyer agrees that these excerpts, taken from his tapes, transform the house into a truly living entity. "You don't get this in any other museum. You can go through other historic houses and museums in the city and look at the furniture, but you don't often get to hear the person enjoying a meal at the dining room table, sitting in their favorite room, hanging out with friends and chatting. He's in the house welcoming you, chatting with you and telling you how he enjoys the space. I get the feeling [that] he knew that he was leaving this behind, that he knew when he was gone people would probably walk through this house, walk through his life in some other way. What a wonderful way to help them do that.
The museum's gift shop is located in the house's garage space and in addition to the usual items sells boxes of red beans and rice, Armstrong's favorite meal, and Swiss Kriss, a laxative that he swore by and passed out to friends and fans as readily as he signed autographs. ("Some people come here just to buy the Swiss Kriss, Dyer observed.) An adjacent room, which was the basement, contains the Museum's special exhibits and has items on display such as one of his trumpets, diaries and various souvenirs from his travels.
"He's a great American, a great person all around, Dyer concluded. "And I think we have a nice little jewel here that teaches more than music. It teaches a nice life lesson about how people should treat each other in the world.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 10-5 pm, Saturday & Sunday 12-5 pm. Guided 40-minute tours leave hourly (last tour is at 4 pm). Closed on some holidays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. Free for members.