Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Maison Blanche Department Store, 1910
I Tell Stories
I’ve written six books on various aspects of the history of New Orleans. They’re stories ranging from streetcars to department stores to schools to Jazz. I earned a BA in Social Sciences Education from the University of New Orleans in 1980. I taught Social Studies at a local high school for a few years. Teaching History is indeed storytelling. It’s a good bit more, of course, particularly when working to improve students’ reading skills, but the content is stories about things in the past. I moved on from high school, using retail sales as a bridge. Invariably, I came back to telling stories, as an adult education instructor (UNO Metropolitan College), and later moving into the world of corporate training. Everything involved storytelling.
While delivering corporate training, I needed things to stay occupied when out of the classroom. So, in 2003, I pitched a book idea to Arcadia Publishing. Streetcars vanished from Canal Street in New Orleans in 1964. The city planned to bring them back, forty years later. It was a great story to share. Even though many stories exist about the older, senior streetcar line, St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street remained essentially an untold story. Arcadia liked the idea and I wrote the book. Promoting a book means telling stories to get folks to buy it.
St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880
After the first book, more storytelling opportunities materialized. I pitched a book about my high school, Brother Martin, in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. The school’s roots go back to 1869, when the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened St. Aloysius in the Vieux Carré. Promoting two books opened up more possibilities. I told shorter stories as the “history blogger” for GoNOLA.com, a site sponsored by the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, now New Orleans, Incorporated. Monthly exposure led to weekly exposure. Various groups around the area invited me to speak to their membership. I’m particularly flattered that the Friends of the Cabildo’s Tour Guides regularly have me in to talk.
Of course, none of this history stuff, from teaching to writing to speaking, pays quite like corporate computer consulting and training. I lived a double life in this respect. That presented challenges for my LinkedIn Presence.
Ramping up LinkedIn
The “second” St. Charles Hotel, stereo card by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880.
I’ve had a presence on LinkedIn since 2007. While I was a good bit active when developing a client base for YatMedia, my activity diminished after that side of what I do scaled back. The computer work I do rarely involves anything local. I traveled extensively for years, teaching UNIX and Enterprise Storage for international companies. The market for those products and services only touches New Orleans very lightly. So, I flew literally around the world, delivering training. The sales staffs of the companies I’ve taught for did the dirty work. I showed up and taught. I still do, in fact, even though “showing up” now means walking here to my home office and firing up WebEx.
The corporate training landscape changed dramatically around 2016 or so. I remember, during the pandemic, a good friend started a podcast for IT professionals. Jeff interviewed folks, and we talked about how the pandemic changed work habits, etc. I explained that my training workload went “virtual” long before people knew what Zoom was about. Traditional job recruiters didn’t help me, since I work through a training company that contracts me out to computer companies. So, even though I’m self-employed, I don’t present a target for those looking to increase their business using LinkedIn.
It’s fun to include LinkedIn users when I tell stories. The larger the audience, the more people I can interest in buying the books! Still, LinkedIn remained secondary to Twitter and Facebook. Now that those platforms morphed into dumpster fires in many ways, the stability of LinkedIn is appealing.
Photo of Dan’s Pier 600 club, ca. 1955. Dan Levy, Sr., opened Pier 600 in the early 1950s. While the club stood at 501 Bourbon, corner St. Louis, it gets its name from Dan Levy’s restaurant at 600 Bourbon. Levy enjoyed success with Dan’s International Settlement, at 600 Bourbon, corner Toulouse.
Al Hirt (right), with guests, at Dan’s Pier 600 Jazz Club, 1950s.
Dan’s Pier 600 hosted a number of jazz musicians over the years. Before opening his own club, Al Hirt played Pier 600 regularly. He recorded Volume 3 of his “Swingin’ Dixie” series at the club. You can see Jumbo’s photo on the St. Louis Street side of the club. He’s wearing a crown, and the caption says, “Al Hirt – He’s the King.” Pete Fountain also played at Pier 600 in the early days of his career, both with Hirt and also on his own.
Levy’s son, Dan Jr., joined his father in the business upon his return to the city from college in 1956. Dan Jr. In addition to managing Pier 600, he managed The Al Hirt Club, The Old Absinthe Bar and Nobody Likes a Smart Ass comedy club.
Dan’s International Settlement served Chinese food at 600 Bourbon. While there was a robust Chinese community in New Orleans dating back to the 19th Century, Dan’s is regarded as the first commercial Chinese restaurant in town. Levy opened the restaurant in 1946, partnering with Frank Gee. The location is now Tropical Isle.
A number of articles over the years The street lamp in this photo of Pier 600 clearly says it’s at the corner of St. Louis and Bourbon Streets. That’s 501 Bourbon. 600 Bourbon is at the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon. So, the two establishments are not just one building, re-branded over the years. Pier 600 was a shout-out to the existing restaurant. While the restaurant’s building looks much like it did in the 1950s, the Pier 600 building underwent significant renovations.
Photo is courtesy the New Orleans Jazz Museum collection. Thanks also to Dominic Massa, for his 2014 obit of Dan Jr., when he was at WWL-TV.
“Mr. Tailgate,” Trombonist Santo Pecora, was a mainstay in the NOLA Jazz scene.
Trombonist Santo Pecora
Born Santo Joseph Pecoraro, trombonist Santo Pecora played with a number of bands in the 1920s. He changed his last name because his cousin, also Santo Pecoraro, was already playing professionally as a drummer. The two occasionally played together, in large ensemble gigs.
Santo, born March 21, 1902 in New Orleans, played in orchestras for silent movies in the early 1920s. He joined the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in Chicago, in 1925. Pecora’s discography began at this time, recording with the NORK. He also recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, the Wingy Manone Orchestra, Wynn’s Creole Jazz Band, and The Orleanians.
By the 1930s, Santo was a regular in the Chicago scene. He toured with Sharkey Bonano, then later moved to Los Angeles, touring with Wingy Manone. While playing with Manone, he also did studio work for the movie studios.
Trombonist Santo Pecora’s early career in New Orleans was typical of many jazz musicians. He earned the nickname, “Mr. Tailgate,” because he played daytime gigs off the back of a horse-drawn wagon. Jazz Bands usually played night gigs, at places like fraternal/masonic halls, dance clubs, even baseball parks. To promote those gigs, the bands would ride around town on a wagon. They would play, promote the paid gig that evening, and busk for tips.
Playing on a wagon presented a complication for the trombonist. While the other musicians could stand on either side of a wagon, the trombone stuck out too far. It could hit someone/something, and injure them. Worse yet, from the musician’s perspective, the trombone could be damaged. So, they lowered the wagon’s tailgate. The trombonist sat, legs dangling off the back. Santo joined these bands to pick up tips.
Pecora returned to New Orleans with Sharkey Bonano’s band in the after World War II. He played regular gigs in local clubs and the riverboats through the 1950s, leading a couple of bands into the 1960s. He then stepped back from full-time work in the 1970s. He passed on May 29, 1984.
The King Fish Beer Parlor anchored the 1100 block of Decatur Street
King Fish Beer Parlor
William Russell photo of the King Fish Beer Parlor, 1101 Decatur Street. The photo, courtesy the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, is undated. Most of Russell’s photos date to the 1950s. The building stands at the corner of Ursuline and Decatur Streets. So, the corner housed a number of businesses over the years. From the 1900s to the 1950s, the owners leased 1101 Decatur as dance clubs, night clubs, and jazz clubs. These clubs created an expansion into the Ursuline Row Houses that continue down the 1100 block. It’s currently mixed-use residential/commercial.
This address consists of three, nice late Victorian Eclectic style brick commercial buildings designed by Thomas Sully for the Ursulines Nuns. The building at the corner has three stories and the other two buildings facing Ursulines each have two stories. These structures replaced the original Ursulines Row Houses that were destroyed by fire.
So, the 1884 building operated as a manufacturing/warehouse facility. The owners leased the ground floor as retail space. Cigar maker Jules Sarrazin moved his business there. By 1900, the ground floor became a night club, the Pig Pen. That club later moved to Bourbon Street. The King Fish Beer Parlor took its place at 1101 Decatur.
The New Orleans Jazz Commission created a walking tour that includes the King Fish. The tour (PDF here) starts at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at 400 Esplanade. The museum occupies the Old US Mint. Additionally, there are still numismatic exhibits. Here’s the tour’s description for stop #6, 1101 Decatur:
This Italianate style building by architect Thomas Sully was built in 1884. The King Fish, probably known briefly as the Pig Pen, was another of the more longlived clubs. Operated by Vincent Serio, Jr. and Arthur Schott, aka the King Fish, the musicians featured included George Lewis, Billie Pierce, Dee Dee Pierce, Burke Stevenson, and Smilin’ Joe (Pleasant Joseph).
So, 1101 Decatur pushed me down rabbit hole! While its history as a jazz club attracted me, the full story requires attention. More to come on this fascinating corner.
Louis Gallaud played in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the mid-1960s.
Photo of Louis Gallaud at the piano at Preservation Hall.The Hogan Jazz Archive caption reads, “Band members Louis Gallaud, p; Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, b; Harrison Verrett, bj; during a performance at Preservation Hall in early July.” The year isn’t mentioned. Slow Drag joined the band in the mid-1960s and passed in 1969, so that narrows it down a bit more.
Gallaud was born on February 27, 1897. He played gigs in Storyville prior to the district’s closing. So, he was working with A. J. Piron, in his late teens. After the district closed, Gallaud continued playing jazz, in Punch Miller’s band. Gallaud played piano on a number of recordings of Miller’s band. He left Miller in the 1920s. Gallaud formed his own band, which regularly played out in Milneburg. These were the waning days of the “Smokey Mary,” the Pontchartrain Railroad. While the railroad no longer served as a cargo-mover, it still brought folks out to Lake Pontchartrain. A number of bands played out in Milneburg, at restaurants and clubs. Additionally, many musicians went out to the fishing neighborhood to busk during the day. They would then hop on the train back to town to play clubs and ballparks in the evening.
Gallaud continued to play Traditional Jazz into the 1940s. He played with a number of musicians and bands. One of his regular gigs was at Luthjen’s Dance Hall, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Marais Street, just off St. Claude Avenue. Note that this is the original Luthjen’s, opened by Clementine Luthjen, which burned down in the 1960s. Clementine’s nephew, Jerome Luthjen, re-opened the club at Marigny and Chartres Streets. That incarnation of the club closed in 1981.
Louis Gallaud continued playing into the 1950s. Like many of the older Creole Jazz musicians, he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the 1960s. Louis also hosted musicians at his home in the Treme for impromptu sessions. Louis passed away on November 24, 1985.
Photo of a Masonic funeral procession from the late 1940s/early 1950s.
Masonic Funeral Procession
Officers of Axiom Lodge #216, Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliation (PHA), lead a funeral procession. Undated photo Axiom Lodge dates to 1951, so photo is likely 1950s. Perhaps someone with more automobile knowledge can pinpoint the truck on the left side. Axiom Lodge is incorporated in Faubourg Treme. So, it’s possible this procession walks through that neighborhood.
The officer front and center is likely a Warden of the Lodge. He carries the Volume of Sacred Law (VSL). This is likely a bible. Behind the Warden walks the Worshipful Master. He wears a hat, indicating his office. The Master walks under an arch of two pikes, carried by Tylers. A Tyler of a Masonic lodge serves as the guardian of the lodge room. He stands outside as the lodge gathers, challenging those who desire entrance. In this procession two Masons function as guardians of the Master.
Prince Hall Affiliation
Prince Hall was a man, a free Black Bostonian. He was born ~1735. Hall became an abolitionist and an influencer in the Black community of Boston. He encouraged Black men to reject British rule and support the revolution. Hall believed that white men would recognize the contributions of Blacks in the formation of the new nation.
Hall recognized that the two most important institutions in Colonial society were the military and freemasonry. Ironically, Hall was initiated into a lodge attached to the British Army. Lodge 441, chartered by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, initiated Hall and fourteen other Black men into freemasonry.
Hall in turn founded African Lodge 1. So, the membership named him Grand Master. After Hall’s death in 1807, African-affiliated lodges sought to join the Grand Lodges of their respective states. The white lodges rejected them. So, the African lodges formed an Independent Grand Lodge. “Prince Hall Affiliated” lodges grew in number. Additionally, more white grand lodges recognized the African Grand Lodge.
While most growth of Prince Hall freemasonry occurred in Union states, the movement eventually moved into rebel states. PHA lodges grew in Jim Crow states, since the structure was already segregated.