The block of 3000 Gentilly Blvd holds a fascinating history.
Photo of the building at 3028-3030 Gentilly Blvd., taken by Franck Studios on February 13, 1951. The specific photographer is unidentified, since this is a commercial photo rather than part of a legal record. The more recent occupant of the building was Gentilly Supply Center, a hardware and appliances store. The store declared bankruptcy the previous summer. A Latter and Blum “For Rent” sign stands in the front window. To the left is Al Shorey’s Bar, and to the right, what appears to be an Oriental Laundry storefront. Mr. Winston Ho has done extensive research on Chinese laundries, as part of his all-things-NOLA-Chinese work.
This building was an Oriental Laundry storefront. By the late 1940s, a pet shop, Petland, took over the location. They didn’t change the “oriental” look of the storefront. Eventually, Petland closed and the building was demolished.
The store was originally the “Gentilly Appliance Company.” The owners renamed it in 1948. The company participated in a lot of “co-op” advertising in the Times-Picayune. These are ads paid mostly by a product manufacturer, and stores selling the product added their address, possibly logo, at the bottom. If you lived in Gentilly and wanted to buy a Hotpoint dishwasher, Gentilly Supply Center was your go-to.
Street railways connected Algiers with Gretna and even Marrero.
I had the privilege of speaking to the Algiers Historical Society last month, on the subject of street railways on the Westbank. I’d spoken to the group on East Bank subjects in the past, so it was fun to dive into an Algiers topic.
Street Railways pod format
So, I didn’t record the original talk, I sat down this week with the Powerpoint presentation and did it as a Zoom. Zoom generates both video and audio recordings. I uploaded the video recording to YouTube. Video podcasts have been a thing for a while, so we’ll join that bandwagon.
I’ve also included a PDF of the slides, for those of you who listen to the audio format, along with images from the presentation.
Portion of the Robinson Atlas, New Orleans, 1883, showing Algiers Point
Louis Hennick map showing street rail in Algiers, 1895
Sketch of planned Algiers Coruthouse, 1896
1907 Photo of the first electric streetcar in Algiers
Louis Hennick map of Westbank street railways in 1916
NOLA History Guy Podcast 01-May-2021 discusses Butler’s goals in New Orleans.
Captain Bailey and Lieutenant Perkins demand the surrender of New Orleans
NOLA History Guy Podcast 01-May-2021
We’re back! Since we’re starting on May 1st, let’s talk about the occupation of New Orleans in 1862.
Consider these goals Butler had when he came to New Orleans
Pacify the city
Union Operations in Louisiana, 1862
Butler used 10,000 of his 15,000 troops to establish a perimeter around the city. He implemented his infamous General Order 28, and limited free speech in 1862.
Expansion of his troops
Louisiana Native Guard Pickets, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 7, 1863
Butler created the Corps d’Afrique, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards regiments. These troops were mostly Creoles of Color. They belonged to militia units during the secession year.
Re-Open the Port of New Orleans
Union ships at anchor, New Orleans, April 30, 1862
Butler provided food to the working-class and working poor of New Orleans, who were mostly Irish and German immigrants. They re-opened the port and jump-started the economy. Trade with Europe helped keep Britain and France from getting involved in the war.
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Patreon History offers a path for supporting NOLA History Guy.
Tomorrow begins a new dynamic for NOLA History Guy, Patreon History! We’ll make a post a day available for subscribers only. Subscriptions will be one dollar (US$1) per month. I’ve had a Patreon account for a few years now, but never really structured it. That changes tomorrow!
There are a few reasons why Patreon History makes sense for me.
It’s popular. Patreon went through a few different phases. Startup, place to monetize sex work via photos and video, creative writing. Going into 2021, there are a number of very popular blogs and podcasts delivered via Patreon.
Patreon’s been around for a while. The platform is well beyond startup. The business model has shaken out. Blogs and podcasts across the spectrum use the platform to monetize their work.
WordPress Integration. It’s easy for me to link Patreon to my existing blogs. The reader/listener doesn’t have to use the Patreon site. They can enjoy my content on the existing blogs.
How it’s going to work
Logo for the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House in Laplace, LA. A photo of Kid Ory is one coming up in January.
I post one to three photos/images a day to social media. In 2021, one post gets monetized. You’ll have to subscribe to my Patreon to read the article accompanying that post.
So, the technical side: I set Patreon to show the first 100-ish words of a post. While the full article is behind the “wall,” the photo displays. You see the preview. You get this now, when I post to Twitter and Instagram. That remains the same. What you get for your support is the full article.
Rabbit holes and deep dives
I enjoy posting images to social media. They spark conversation. We fall down rabbit holes on some oddball subjects. Those rabbit holes often become 1000+ articles on the blog. That continues with Patreon History. Everyone sees the “featured image” and the first paragraph or so. Subscribers see those articles in their entirety.
Sometimes a rabbit hole turns into a “deep dive.” Subscribers get those 2000+ word articles. I’m also starting a substack for long-form articles. Those get cross-posted to both platforms.
Podcasts for Patreon Histoy
NOLA History Guy Podcast goes to twice a month, starting tomorrow. One episode stays outside the “wall,” the other goes behind it, for subscribers. The model for this changes from the posts. I set podcasts so that anyone who has ever donated to the Patreon account sees them. That means, if you donated a dollar three years ago, you get the podcasts. If you sign up for January and cancel in February, you get them. We’ll be soliciting sponsors for the podcast as well.
A number of pods use the two-ep-per-month model. Some require a Patreon subscription level of $5/month. So, if you listen to three of these, you’re putting up $180/year. That’s not what we want. Maybe we’ll add “premium” content in the future. For now, if you give us a dollar, we’re good.
Years ago, I split up my multiple social media personalities. A friend fussed at the mix of food porn and politics in @YatPundit. So, I started a second account on Da Twittah, @YatCuisine. That became two blogs. Add the history blog to that. NOLA History Guy grew out of my streetcar blog. It absorbed the streetcar stuff. The other subjects continued in separate spaces.
NOLA History Guy – All. The. History. Along with the podcasts.
Content on each blog/site goes Patreon in 2021. Like the history blog, the others present both open and subscriber posts. YatPundit’s Pub podcast remains open.
The ultimate goal
I’m not looking to get rich by expanding Patreon History. The ultimate goal here is to raise a steady stream from supporters to a) pay Lady Duchess of the Red Pen (my editor, Dara Rochlin) and b) hire a proper producer for the podcast. If I can get a minimum of $300/month of support, that can happen.
Mister Bingle 2020 still goes “jingle jangle jingle!
The “Big Bingle” on the front of Maison Blanche on Canal Street. (Edward Branley photo)
Mister Bingle 2020
We’ve done a lot of things on Mr. Bingle, the most visible icon of Christmas in New Orleans, but not a podcast ep! Mister Bingle-2020 looks to change that, as we talk about the little snow elf.
Emile Alline, MB Display Director, received awards for his work, as described in this 1953 newspaper article.
The idea of Mister Bingle began with a trip to Chicago. In 1947, Mr. Emile Alline managed the display department at Maison Blanche Department Store on Canal Street. The “Greatest Store South” opened at 901 Canal Street in 1897. Fifty years later, the store survived two World Wars. Alline was an important part of advertising and promoting the store in the post-WWII boom. Alline took the train up to Chicago to see what stores along that city’s famed “Miracle Mile” were up to for the Christmas season. He took note of many things, particularly the signature character, “Uncle Mistletoe,” at Marshall Fields.
Alline decided Maison Blanche needed a Christmas character. He came home from that Chicago run and got to work. Rather than a paternal, big, Santa-like character, Alline sketched a more child-like figure. His concept began with a small snowman. The snowman received wings of holly and a big red nose. An upside-down ice cream cone became his hat.
While it would be Alline’s job to bring his preliminary concept to life, it wasn’t his decision to go forward. He pitched the character to Herbert Shwartz, the President of Maison Blanche. Shwartz liked the concept, naming the snow-elf, “Mister Bingle.” His initials became “MB.”
Sketches and Ad Campaigns
1947 newspaper ad introducing Mr. Bingle
Mister Bingle had the green light for his red nose. Alline went to work with the store’s art department to standardize the character. Bingle found his way into the daily ads in local newspapers. A back story on the snow-elf’s origin was created. New Orleans got a new Christmas story.
The artists of a department store’s Art and/or Display department were some of the most creative people in town. These are the folks that come up with ideas that make memories, like Phil Preddy’s six-foot letters, making lighted messages on the front of Krauss. A decade later, Walt Disney looked for these creatives, to be his “Imagineers.” Mister Bingle 2020 continues to inspire people with talent and drive.
Mr. Bingle goes 3-D
After the 1947 holiday season, MB desired a larger presence for their snow-elf. Alline planned to include Bingle in the store’s window displays. He commissioned a fifteen-inch Bingle doll. The prototype looked great. So, doll Bingles appeared in the windows.
While those display Bingles met different fates over the years, Mister Bingle 2020 includes the original prototype. Emile Alline’s daughters preserved the prototype doll. According to their Facebook pages, the daughters alternate Christmas “custody” of the prototype. Bingle celebrates with both branches of the family.
The Puppets and Oscar Isentrout
Oscar Isentrout, performing with Mr. Bingle at a charity event in 1984.
The folks who worked at the Canal Street store were quite familiar with businesses behind them in the French Quarter. While Bourbon Street was not as tawdry as it is for Mister Bingle 2020, the street had interesting night clubs. Several Bourbon Street clubs offered burlesque shows, interspersed with Jazz and vaudeville acts. i can just imagine Emile Alline, or one of his team mentioning a puppeteer who worked those clubs, maybe with a “or so I’m told” added to the story.
So, Alline connected with a puppeteer, Edward Harmon Isentrout. Isentrout went by “Oscar” professionally. Oscar Isentrout performed with several marionettes as an act in-between the dancers.
The creatives jumped on the idea for Bingle. Oscar referred them to a German puppet-maker, who built two Bingle puppets. Oscar became the eyes, hands, and most importantly, the voice of Mr. Bingle when those puppets took stage.
While the window displays worked on Canal Street, the “Greatest Store South” grew. Maison Blanche offered three locations for shoppers in the 1948 holiday season. The first store off Canal was at the corner of S. Carrollton Avenue, Tulane Avenue, and Airline Highway. Then came the company’s Gentilly store, on Gentilly Road, just off of Elysian Fields Avenue.
These two new stores meant Bingle hit the road. One of the puppets Oscar used stayed at the main store. The other puppet traveled to the other stores, as well as other venues for short shows.
Television audiences grew across the country in the 1950s. New Orleans was no stranger to this. Maison Blanche expanded their ad strategy to include TV ads. Oscar’s traveling puppet show went to television, specifically, WDSU (Channel 6). Oscar performed live commercials during the station’s morning cartoon/children’s programming. Oscar passed away in 1985, but Mr. Bingle lived on, particularly in animation.
Where are the puppets now?
Mr. Bingle and Oscar, Hebrew Rest Cemetery. (Dominic Massa photo)
The two Bingle puppets are still with us. One of those puppets came into the possession of Jeffery Kent after Oscar passed away. The puppet was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bingle was a flood victim. The worst of the damage was rust-related. The puppet’s metal frame rusted, and the orange color bled out into the fabric. Kent painstakingly restored Mr. Bingle to his original condition. Since local TV weatherman Bob Breck encouraged Kent to take on the project, Mr. Breck re-introduced Mr. Bingle to New Orleans on his show.
What of the other puppet? At the time I wrote my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, a friend told me a story. He said the second puppet, the one that remained at Canal Street, was still around. According to the story, an individual took possession of the puppet when Dillard’s acquired MB. This tale is similar to the story of the “Holmes Clock.” At D. H. Holmes, a pair of customers feared that Dillard’s would not take the tradition of “meet me under the clock” seriously. So, they removed the clock, returning it to the location when the building was converted into a hotel. I’m told that the caretaker of the second puppet doesn’t want to be identified (my friend wouldn’t give up the name), but the puppet will re-appear when that individual passes away.
The Big Bingle
A large-form Mr. Bingle first appeared on the front of MB Canal Street in the 1950s. That first “big Bingle” vanished in the 1960s.
Ad in the Times-Picayune, 6-Nov-1953, for the arrival of Santa and Mr. Bingle, via American Airlines.
The store did a number of “big” promotions for Mr. Bingle in the 1950s and 1960s. MB partnered with Eastern Airlines several years, to “fly in” Santa and Bingle. They presented a motorcade/parade. One year, Mr. Bingle arrived at Canal Street, a Bingle doll “landing” on top of the building via helicopter.
By the 1980s, “big Bingle” returned to the front of Canal. The store commissioned a large, fiberglass Bingle for all to enjoy. When Dillard’s acquired MB in 1998, they also acquired Bingle. Dillard’s displayed the big Bingle on the side of their Lakeside store (the former D. H. Holmes Lakeside) in 1999. It’s unclear why the tradition failed, but Dillard’s put Big Bingle into storage.
Big Bingle made appearances in downtown Christmas parades. Carnival krewes, such as Metairie’s Krewe of Caesar, put papier mache Bingles on floats, celebrating New Orleans icons.
“Big Bingle” is a mainstay of City Park’s annual “Celebration in the Oaks” (Louis Maistros photo)
Dillard’s finally donated Big Bingle to New Orleans City Park in 2005. Now, he’s an annual feature of Celebration in the Oaks.