Mid-City Magic on Murat

Mid-City Magic on Murat

Mid-City Magic – The Centanni Home.

Mid City Magic

The Centanni home, located on Canal and S. Murat Streets, was a magical place for kids growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Sam Centanni, owner of Gold Seal Creamery, decorated the house annually. The lights and figures drew New Orleanians from across the metro area. Centanni turned off the lights when his wife passed in 1966. Now, a Centanni descendant owns the house. They’ve renewed the Christmas tradition.

Gold Seal Creamery

mid city magic

Antonino Centanni founded Gold Seal Creamery in the 1920s. Mid-City was very Sicilian at that time. Immigrants from Sicily arrived in numbers, starting in the 1880s. They quickly took over most of the Vieux Carre’s business locations. Pasta factories, bakeries, shoemakers, eventually even hotels came under Sicilian ownership. By 1915, the community asked the Archdiocese for permission to move St. Anthony of Padua Church from N. Rampart Street to Canal and S. St. Patrick Streets in Mid-City. Sicilians moved into the neighborhood bounded on one side by the New Canal and the Southern Railway’s Bernadotte Yard on the other.

mid city magic

Centanni opened his dairy at S. Alexander and D’Hemecourt Streets. This was close enough to the New Canal and Banks Street to easily take in raw milk in from farms via boat and truck. The dairy serviced the Mid-City neighborhood. The Centannis were the first local dairy to bring in homogenizing equipment. They homogenized milk for other dairies as well, increasing the profit of their business. Gold Seal branched out, selling “Creole Cream Cheese” to families and bakeries. Gold Seal’s cream cheese became the primary ingredient in cannolis, the Sicilian pastry, at many bakeries.

The Centanni Home

The success of Gold Seal meant the Centanni’s acquired some wealth. Antonino’s son, Sam, worked with his father in the business, and eventually took it over. He built the house at Canal and S. Murat Street, where he lived with his wife, Myra and their children. Mrs. Centanni went all-out in decorating the house for the season. In 1946, with wartime restrictions on lights and electricity consumption lifted, the Centannis went all-out in decorating the house. Myra added to their collection of wooden figures, adding plastic ones by the 1960s.

As the display grew, so did its reputation. Folks would add the Centanni home as one of their stops to go see Christmas lights in other neighborhoods. The display awed and inspired children throughout the 1950s, including a young man from the Ninth Ward named Al Copeland. Al would credit the Centannis as the inspiration for the huge light display at his Metairie home.

Myra Centanni passed on New Year’s Eve, 1966. Sam turned the lights off. In later years, the family allowed the display to live on. They donated many of the pieces to City Park. The park incorporated them into the annual “Celebration in the Oaks” presentation. While much of the Centanni pieces were older and “outdated,” City Park required so many things to fill out Storyland and the Botanical Gardens, the decorations were welcome.

Gold Seal Lofts

Mr. Sam sold Gold Seal Creamery in 1986. He was 88, and ready to hang it up. The building is now the “Gold Seal Lofts,” a condo conversion. The condos use a modified version of the Gold Seal logo.

The Modern House

mid city magic

Over fifty years after Myra passed, the Centanni home lights up Mid-City. With so many things “ain’t there no more,” it’s nice to see Mr. Bingle looking down from the porch.

New Orleans Thanksgiving, 1968

New Orleans Thanksgiving, 1968

Going out for a New Orleans Thanksgiving.

new orleans thanksgiving 1968 delerno's in metairie

New Orleans Thanksgiving

The traditional Thanksgiving meal is so not New Orleans. Our Creole-French and Creole-Italian roots don’t mesh with classic turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes. Oh, sure, we can’t help but add our local twists to the meal, like oyster dressing, or stuffed peppers with a bit of red gravy. Still, it’s not our food.

Going out to celebrate the holiday is very much a New Orleans thing, though. We’ve never been the dinner-and-the-theater type of people. We go out to eat, of course. Well, on Thanksgiving, folks go to Da Track, then out to eat.

Undecided about where to go? On 23-Nov-1968, the Times-Picayune included ads for a number of restaurants. Those places knew people would forget to make reservations at their favorites. Then there were the visitors who needed some place to enjoy dinner.

Le Cafe at the Monteleone

new orleans thanksgiving 1968 the monteleone

The Monteleone Hotel offered a Thanksgiving buffet. They included the usual Thanksgiving fare, along with “Louisiana Speckled Trout Cardinal” and “Sugar Cured Ham with Champagne Sauce.” That trout likely enticed more than a few visitors who can’t get that back north.

Second only to mom

Delerno’s opened for Thanksgiving 1968 at their place on Pink and Focis Streets, just off Metairie Road. (Ad up top.)

All the usuals, plus turkey

new orleans thanksgiving 1968 louisiana purchase metairie

Louisiana Purchase Restaurant added turkey to their regular menu of “Authentic Creole, Acadian & New Orleans Cooking” for New Orleans Thanksgiving 1968. The restaurant was at 4241 Veterans in 1968. That location was later Houston’s Restaurant and is now Boulevard American Bistro. Louisiana Purchase Kitchen moved further up the street, to 8853 Veterans, Blvd.

Hotel Thanksgiving

new orleans thanksgiving 1968 airport hilton

Clementine’s at the New Orleans Airport Hilton offered diners “Roast Turkey with Oyster Dressing,” along with other sides, and, like any solid local hotel restaurant, gumbo. Clementine’s as the hotel restaurant is ATNM, but the Airport Hilton, at 901 Airline Drive, is still there more.

No Wild Boar

new orleans thanksgiving 1968 pittari's

T. Pittari’s on South Claiborne advertised a limited menu for Thanksgiving, 1968. While the restaurant’s regular advertising made a big deal about their wild game entrees, Thanksgiving meant classics. Roast Turkey with Oyster Dressing, the New Orleans staple for the day. Additionally, Pittari’s offered Filet of Lake Trout Amandine (a New Orleans Platonic Dish), and Baby Veal Milanese with Spaghettini, one of the restaurant’s Creole-Italian favorites.

 

 

 

 

Moisant Airport, 1960 (MSY)

Moisant Airport in the 1960s. what we now call “the old terminal.”

moisant airport

Moisant Airport

As we approach Thanksgiving and Yuletide, Da Airport picks up its pace. In 1960, what we now think f as “the old terminal” opened for business. These postcard shots of the main terminal at Moisant Field, from Mr. Garrett L. Robertson of Metairie, show the completed front facade and interior. So, the airport, which opened in 1946, operated from a terminal in a large hangar building. Mayor Chep Morrison spearheaded the new terminal project. Construction began in 1959. While this terminal served the airport from 1960 to 2019, calls for a new airport came throughout its history. The “new terminal” opened in 2019.

Moisant Stock Yards

The airport’s IATA code, MSY, stands for Moisant Stock Yards. John Moisant was an aviation pioneer and stunt pilot. He died in a crash on the site of the airport in 1910. Agricultural facilities on the site took his name. New Orleans Lakefront Airport (originally named Sushan Airport) had the IATA code NEW. Therefore, the new airport in Kenner required something different. Moisant fit, hence MSY. The code confounds visitors to this day.

Original Terminal

moisant airport

The main building stood on Airline Highway. It offered an appealing visual as visitors and locals alike came out. The spacious interior included restaurants, lounges, and other amenities for travelers. So, gates extended via a concourse directly behind the terminal building. As the airport grew in capacity, the facility built more gates. Concourses “A” and “B” opened in 1974.

The original gates underwent renovation in 1992, becoming “C” concourse. Additionally, Delta and United Airlines moved to “D” concourse, upon its completion in 1996.

Pops

The airport’s name evolved from Moisant Field to Moisant Airport, to New Orleans International Airport. The airport retained its MSY code throughout. So, in 2001, the Aviation Board officially changed the airport’s name. It became “Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.” This marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late jazz great Louis Armstrong,

 

Brennan’s Autumn 1966 @BrennansNOLA

Brennan’s Autumn 1966 @BrennansNOLA

Brennan’s Autumn 1966 meant interesting meals all day.

brennan's autumn 1966

Brennan’s Autumn 1966

“Autumn is delicious at Brennan’s” is the theme of this ad in the Times-Picayune, 9-November-1966. Brennan’s was known primarily for their variations on Eggs Benedict and other breakfast dishes. After breakfast/brunch, business tapered off. The restaurant promoted lunch and dinner service. With New Orleans entering Autumn (finally, in November), Brennan’s enticed diners in to enjoy “entrees with Brennan’s own French-accented sauces…”

“new Autumn Breakfasts”

Ever had hot grilled grapefruit
with a touch of Kirsch? Then, Brennan’s Eggs Por-
tuguese … chopped tomatos in a tender flaky
pastry shell, topped with poached eggs and
covered with a rich Hollandaise sauce.
Wrap it up with delectable Crepes
Suzette and a hearty cup of
cafe au lait

Crepes Suzette offered the diner some flaming excitement at Breakfast time.

new Autumn Luncheons

Beautiful way to break your day … exotic
Chicken A L’Orange … tender boned chicken
sauteed in a spicy orange sauce and served
with parsley rice. This is only one of many new
entrees on the luncheon menu at Brennan’s
… guaranteed to present you with the most
pleasant decision you’ll make all day.

Locals and tourists alike eschew a big lunch in New Orleans. They opted for “business” or “working man” lunch places. Brennan’s created dishes appealing, but not designed to spoil your dinner.

new Autumn Dinners

First, Brennan’s “from Paris” Onion
Soup au Gratin. Follow this with Beef Dore’ …
skillfully seasoned chopped sirloin steak, em-
bellished with cheese and cooked in a pastry puff
with a Perigord red wine sauce. A tossed
green salad with Chapon dressing
and luscious cheesecake
complete your meal.

Unlike other “old-line” restaurants, like Antoine’s and Arnaud’s, Brennan’s dated back to the late 1940s. Antoine’s was a century old by the time Owen Brennan opened his place on Bourbon Street. So, Brennan’s didn’t have that base of diners who came in for that One Specific Thing. That gave the restaurant a lot more flexibility on the menu. Still, that One Specific Thing applied to Brennan’s. That’s why they now serve Breakfast all day.

Brennan’s French Restaurant, 417 Royal Street, across from the Louisiana Supreme Court.

 

 

Oscar’s Puppets

Oscar’s Puppets

Live-action! Oscar’s puppets were more than just the Bingles!

Oscar’s Puppets

oscar's puppets

“Oscar” Isentrout, puppet master and voice of Mister Bingle, entertaining a group of shoppers at a show promoting “Import Week” in August 1969. The photo appeared in “Shop Talk,” the store’s employee newsletter.

When Emile Alline created Mr. Bingle, he naturally visualized dolls of the character for window displays. Someone mentioned that there was a puppeteer working on Bourbon Street. He did vaudeville-style shows in between the dancers. Oscar had two puppets of Alline’s Bingle doll made.

Beyond Bingle

Mr. Alline knew he had something special in the combination of Bingle and Isentrout. Oscar threw his personality, creativity, and spirit into his Bingle live shows. While Bingle began as a seasonal gig for Oscar, Alline ended up hiring him full-time. So, Oscar’s Bingle incarnation became too important.

As a full-time employee, Alline and MB discovered they had real talent in Oscar. Bingle now was a year-round project. Additionally, Oscar became part of promotions away from Christmas. “Import Week” in August ran for a number of years. Oscar had female puppets that could do costume changes. From French to Japanese, Oscar’s ladies attracted shoppers to live shows. He did shows not only on Canal Street, but the suburban stores as well. This photo is a show at Airline Village, in Metairie.

Employee news

Shop Talk came out every two weeks. The store’s advertising department originated the publication. Employees contributed new items, gossip, even short poems and stories. There was a sports page, reporting on news from the various sports teams the store sponsored. Some of these played in the Commercial League. Other projects included teams for the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD). While the NORD and school sponsorships made for good community relations, inter-store employee leagues ranked highly among newsletter interests.

The newsletters were invaluable to me when I wrote the book.They’re up on the fourth floor of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) on Loyola Avenue.

 

Metairie Cemetery Traffic Pattern

Metairie Cemetery Traffic Pattern

Metairie Cemetery traffic pattern was important on All Saints Day.

metairie cemetery traffic pattern

Metairie Cemetery traffic pattern

Ad in the Times-Picayune, 28-October-1962, for Metairie Cemetery. The cemetery stood next to the New Canal for over eighty years. The city filled in the canal in 1949-1950. They then built the Pontchartrain Expressway, connecting Lakeview with downtown, in 1954. It took a few years to complete the ground-level access at Metairie Road. By 1962, the cemetery decided to explain the traffic flow to visitors:

Highway service and traffic lanes are now completed in the Metairie Cemetery area to accomodate autos entering Metairie Cemetery. If you plan to visit the Cemetery on All Saints’ Day, or the preceding day to place flowers, we suggest that you use the road guide printed below.

Visitors driving in from the west turned off Veterans Highway at Bellaire Drive. Bellaire is the first street on the Orleans Parish side of the 17th Street Canal. As Veterans evolved, this pattern altered slightly. Now, drivers turn right at Vets and Fleur-de-Lis. Since Bellaire no longer connects directly with Veterans, drivers go up to the light at Fleur-de-Lis, then curve around from there.

This route didn’t change after the construction of the I-10/I-610 highways over the canal. Just follow the service road. The sights along the way changed over time, from the country club, to New Orleans Academy (a military school), to the local LDS Temple. Now, the area along the service road is all residential.

Busy day

All Saints’ Day continues to be one of the busiest days for local cemeteries. Since All Saints’ is a “holy day of obligation” for Roman Catholics, many companies took the day off. So, folks would attend Mass at their parish church, then head to the cemeteries to spruce up the family tombs. This was important, because of the next day, All Souls’ Day. All the Saints were already in heaven. The Souls in purgatory needed to get out of the holding pen and up to heaven. You knew that maw-maw went on to her reward. Paw-paw, on the other hand, you had your doubts. So, fixing up the tomb to show you cared became an important ritual.