Canal Street 1960 featured Hitchcock at the movies.
Canal Street 1960.
Unpacking a photo from “N.O.L.A. – New Orleans Long Ago” on Facebook. This color shot features the 1101 to 901 blocks of Canal Street. The photographer (unidentified) stands across the 140′ street. the angle indicates they’re at Elk Place. A green arch roof streetcar travels inbound, on the Canal line. A second streetcar travels outbound, a block down the street. The marquee of the Saenger features Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Woolworth’s at N. Rampart Street, the Audubon Building, and Maison Blanche Department Store are visible, along with numerous billboards and other advertising.
While this photo is undated, the marquee of the Saenger Theater tells us it’s from the Summer of 1960. Paramount and Hitchcock released “Psycho” nationwide at the end of June. An interesting tidbit about the film: it was the first movie released in the United States with a “no late admission” policy. While Paramount opposed the notion, it turned out that moviegoers lined up well in advance to see the film.
Like other movie houses in New Orleans in 1960, the Saenger observed Jim Crow laws and restrictions. The theater operated the balcony separately from the rest of the building. They walled off the balcony as a “colored” theater, the Saenger Orleans. The theater merged back to one after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Rubenstein’s store, on the Sanger’s corner at Canal and N. Rampart, was not connected to Rubenstein Brothers, the venerable men’s store still at Canal and St. Charles Avenue. This Rubenstein’s was part of a chain of women’s stores. They later moved to the 1000 block. That corner storefront of the theater became a Popeyes in the 1980s.
F. W. Woolworth Co.
Woolworth’s operated one of its two Canal Street stores on the other side of N. Rampart. This location became a nexus for Civil Rights protests just two years after this photo. As in other cities, protesters focused on the Woolworth’s lunch counter. While there were no major incidents, Civil Rights leaders, most notably the Rev. Avery Alexander, led pickets and protests on Canal Street.
Woolworth’s closed the store in the 1990s. The building remained vacant until 2011. Developer Mohan Kailas acquired the store. He demolished the building (which stood on the corner since the 1930s). Kailas partnered with Hard Rock Cafe to build a hotel on the site. In 2019, construction failures caused the development to collapse, killing three.
The 901 block of Canal Street stands as it has since 1910. The Audubon Building was an office building at the corner of Canal and Burgundy streets. It was later converted into a hotel, The Saint. Next is the S. H. Kress store, then Maison Blanche Department Store. MB the store occupied the first five floors. The upper floors were leased as office space. WSMB radio stood atop the building, on the thirteenth floor.
A 1923-vintage arch roof streetcar heads inbound on Canal Street. It approaches the corner of Canal and Rampart streets. I can’t make out its number – if you can, let me know! New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) operated the transit system in New Orleans at the time.
The “beautification project” of 1958 cut back the number of streetcar tracks on Canal from four to two. Streetcar lines heading inbound to Canal Street used the outside tracks to turn around and return to their origin points. By the late 1950s, the only remaining streetcar lines were Canal and St. Charles. So, since those turn-arounds were no longer necessary, the city cut down the size of the neutral ground. Additionally, they increased the number of auto lanes in the downtown section of Canal. planters and palm trees appeared as part of the project. By the summer of 1960, the palm trees survived a couple of winters.
Rex Dumbo 1960 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.
Rex Dumbo 1960
“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the 1960 Rex parade, 1-March-1960. This photo, by Howard “Cole” Coleman, offers a great “unpack.” It features several Canal Street stores, Maison Blanche, Katz and Besthof, Chandler’s Shoes. The K&B had been converted to the “Camera Center” by this time. The parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. It turned left going the wrong way up Canal, then made a u-turn at Rampart. Rex then rolled down to the river.
901 Canal Street
Maison Blanche dominates the 901 block. The store boasted five floors of retail space. The two towers of the “Maison Blanche Office Building” rose up an additional seven floors. The store’s entrance was at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Street (right behind Rex Dumbo 1960 here). The “office building” entrance stood at the other side of the building. A separate set of elevators lifted you up to a myriad of doctors, dentists, and other businesses above the store. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans uses the old office building entrace as the main entrance of the hotel.
Katz and Besthof
K&B opened their store in the 800 block of Canal in the 1920s, to service those going to doctors in the MB building. By the late 1950s, the store became redundant, as the chain also operated a store across the street. So, K&B created the “Camera Center.” They sold cameras and photographic supplies on the second floor. The Camera Center grew in popularity, to the point where it took over the first floor as well.
Chandler’s to Baker’s
The Edison Brothers opened the first in their chain of Chandler’s Shoe Stores in 1922. By the 1930s, they expanded to New Orleans. They opened a Chandler’s in the 800 block, next to Lerner’s, just up from Gus Mayer and D. H. Holmes. The Edisons opened a second chain they called Baker’s Shoes. The New Orleans Chandler’s became a Baker’s in the 1970s. Baker’s eventually moved out to the malls. The chain closed the CBD location. The retail front of the building is now a spa/massage place.
King of Carnival
While many of the retail outlets on Canal Street erected grandstands, the stores in the 801 block chose not to. That offered prime parade-watching spots to folks who just wandered around. Cole Coleman stood on the neutral ground to get his photos. Additionally,Coleman crossed the neutral ground to take shots of the parade on the other side of Canal. At this time, Rex toasted his queen and the court at the Boston Club at 824 Canal.
The streetcars stopped, as they do today, at Liberty Street. They “switch-back” there, beginning their outbound runs.
In 1966, newspapers offered Maison Blanche Advertising a solid platform.
Maison Blanche Advertising
The Sunday edition of the Times-Picayune for February 13, 1966 offered a target-rich environment for the department stores. The store placed numerous full-page ads, like this one for “GEORGIA GRIFFIN’S ‘TOWN and TRAVEL’ COLLECTION OF DACRON/COTTONS” – “leaves pressing business behind.” Additionally, they ran an ad for Maison Blanche auto centers,
The dresses featured three neck styles, Italian collar, Double-collar, and Cardigan neck. So, this collection sold at Misses’ and Women’s Dresses, Second Floor of MB Canal. Additionally, they went out to the “suburban” stores. Gentilly Woods, which later migrated to The Plaza at Lake Forest. Airline, which moved to Clearview Shopping Center, and Westside Shopping Center.
MB never sleeps…
With a full final shopping day on Monday, February 14, MB presented Rudy Grenreich’s “Exquisite Form “L’Intrigue” Sleepwear Collection. “(Surprise surprise! … no gossamer peakboo here. All is demure, or is it?)”
Styles from “THE LOCKE SHOE TRUNK SHOWING” by Mr. George D. Williams, stood next to the sleepwear. The “Carol,” “Cameo,” and “Pinafore” enticed women out for the showing. Shoppers ventured only to the downtown Shoe Salon for the Locke shoe. While the outlying stores attracted regular shoppers, the “get dressed and go downtown” view held.
“High-stepping, uninhibited as the season … four great fashion looks from Carmelettes take lower heels, joyous colorings, or the sparkling polish of black.” While the Shoe Department offered several styles and colors only at Canal Street, others appeared at the other stores.
“Carnival arrives at first blush of spring as Samuel Winston, not a moment too soon, proposes you wear his pink frosting spectator’s costume as a foil to the first azaleas and a compliment to a king.” The Designers’ Shop on the Second Floor offered lovely suits perfect for grandstand viewing of parades.
Pfaff’s “DIAL-A-STITCH AUTOMATIC SEWING MACHINE,” priced in the ballpark of the designer suits, contained numerous automatic features. Families with a skilled seamstress at home created their own women’s suits with sewing machines. MB sold them on the Fourth Floor. The 1966 Dial-A-Stitch sold at Canal Street only.
More MB 1966 to come! Be sure to pick up the book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
The Napoleon Avenue Tunnel proposal would connect Uptown to a new bridge.
Napoleon Avenue Tunnel
Diagram of proposed approaches to a second bridge across the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The concept was to use Napoleon Avenue as a major traffic approach to the bridge. Instead of wiping out the neighborhood, cars would come to the bridge via a tunnel.
This diagram was published in the Times-Picayune on 17-January-1970. The traffic congestion on the original bridge grew to the point where it was clear a second bridge was necessary.
The first bridge
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened to traffic in April, 1958. New Orleanians relied on ferries for the 250 years prior to its opening. As the Interstate Highway System grew in the 1950s, a bridge across the river at New Orleans made sense. (Ironically, the Interstate system uses the bridge at Baton Rouge). While the metro area had a bridge in Jefferson Parish (the Huey P. Long Bridge), that structure was designed for railroad use, with automobile lanes tacked on.
So, with states and the federal government throwing money into highway expansion and improvements after WWII, New Orleans got a bridge. It was five lanes, two in each direction with an emergency lane in the center.
By the late 1960s, the West Bank of the NOLA metro area grew dramatically. Algiers and Gretna appealed to younger residents looking to get out of their parents’ houses in town. Housing on the West Bank was affordable. You just had to cross the bridge.
Building a new bridge
Lots of proposals came forward for a second bridge. Locations ranged from Uptown by the parish line to down in Chalmette. From an access and traffic perspective, putting a bridge at Napoleon Avenue made some sense. The Jackson Avenue ferry put people out in downtown Gretna. Put a bridge just upriver, and you split the difference between Gretna and Harvey. Folks going to Algiers would continue to use the existing bridge.
While the concept looked interesting, it never got past this diagram. A tunnel? In New Orleans? Good luck with that. And the construction! Those who argued against tearing up Napoleon Avenue for a tunnel and bridge approach were vindicated in recent years with the nightmare that was drainage upgrades on that street. Combine that with the general NIMBY factor from every neighborhood, and we ended up with a second bridge next to the first one.
Still, ideas spark discussion, and a bit of amusement after fifty years.
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
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.
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
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.
Going out for a New Orleans Thanksgiving.
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
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
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.
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
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.