Thanks to the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guides for having me in to speak!
I had the privilege on Monday to speak to the monthly meeting of the Tour Guides of the Friends of the Cabildo. The FOC offer a number of walking tours, most notably their French Quarter tour. They’re a fantastic group of folks. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to do the tours. It also takes a strong constitution to walk the Quarter in the Summer!
The FOC Tour Guides undergo an extensive training class before they’re turned loose in the Quarter. They do “continuing education” by having people far better than me come in to speak on specific topics. Check them out if it’s something you’d like to volunteer to do.
Zooming and hybrid meetings
We’re well along in our pandemic life that remote meetings and presentations are commonplace. At the beginning, many of us thought remote meetings would be a temporary fix. As we go along, however, it’s clear now that this style of presentation is here to stay. It makes perfect sense for groups like the Tour Guides. Not only do you have Covid concerns (a lot of the members are older and play it safe), but getting down to the Cabildo for a meeting can be challenging. So, have the presentation in a hybrid format. The Louisiana State Museum upgraded the presentation equipment in the Arsenal section of the Cabildo. This is where the group meets. I know the remote participants had no issues with the technology, since I received several emails from them. Additionally, it helps when the group has staff on hand to assist the speaker.
While I hesitate to discuss how others use remote presentation software, I don’t mind sharing how I approach these meetings.
- The group’s doing me a favor! I have books to sell, and I’m always happy to get in front of a group of potential customers.
- Be exciting! This isn’t easy for me. Even if I spend the day teaching (my day gig is corporate computer training), I come to a NOLA History Guy talk excited. Sitting at a desk doesn’t work for me. I’m always pacing around. The audience doesn’t see this when the talk is fully remote, but my tone reflects it.
- It’s not about me. The talk is about the material, not about how I approach a book or how I write an article.
- Have fun! If it’s not fun, I don’t wanna do it.
Monday’s talk offered a history of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad. That company morphed into our modern St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line. The presentation covered over ninety years of railroads and streetcars in New Orleans. I’ll share the presentation here as a series of blog articles. Eventually I’ll do the talk again, recording it for here.
As I walked through a portion of the first floor exhibits at the Cabildo, I stopped to take a pic of this neat old K&B sign! Looking forward to being asked back to talk to the Tour Guides.
New Orleans offered great options for Dining, Dancing, Entertainment in 1978.
Dining, Dancing, Entertainment.
Summertime in New Orleans in the 1970s offered a wide variety of going-out options, from dining to live music, to a night at Da Beach. Begue’s at the Royal Sonesta Hotel offered a different spread on the lunch buffet daily. We would go on Thursdays, when it was the big seafood buffet (above).
Vincenzo’s, 3000 Severn, in #themetrys tempted folks into their world “of Good Food, of Good Drinks, of Great Entertainment.” Creole-Italian food, a solid bar and a good wine list, and a piano man for live music, five days a week. The location is the strip mall next to Breaux Mart on Severn. It’s now boutiques and a Hallmark store.
The Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street presented “Steaks Unlimited” as one of their restaurants. The Sunday Brunch at the hotel featured breakfast food and Creole classics. While some brunch spreads provided the bare minimum for guests who didn’t want to venture out, The Monteleone competed for locals coming into town for a day of sightseeing.
Dancing and Live Music
Disco Dancing at Da Beach (top)! A night out riding the Zephyr and the “Ragin Cajun” roller coasters required fashion choices other than nice clubbing clothes. Still, 1978 was peak disco. So, the amusement park turned the main stage (more-or-less in the center of the midway) into an outdoor disco, Monday thru Friday nights. On Saturdays and Sundays, Da Beach held a “Gong Show.” Local radio DJs emceed these crazy talent shows.
For a show/club experience, The Front Page featured a classic two-shows-a-night band/review. Tommy Cook and the Platters entertained at the Fat City club the week of 13-18 June, 1978. No cover, weeknights and Sundays.
Not interested in sweating out at Da Beach? Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater presented three musicals in the Summer of 1978. Theater enthusiasts turned out at Dixon Hall on the Uptown campus for “Girl Crazy,” “Die Fledermaus,” and “Camelot.” Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater is still going strong in 2022.
New Orleans entertained itself nicely during the Oil Boom of the late 1970s. As Boom turned into Bust, we began to re-invent ourselves, offering tourist-oriented attractions on a larger scale.
A buggy ride is still a fun part of a visit to New Orleans.
“Carriage driver. Mardi Gras, New Orleans. February 1976” by Elisa Leonelli, via Claremont College’s Special Collections. A dapper buggy driver for Gay 90s Carriages sits at Jackson Square, waiting for the next customer(s). Cafe du Monde is visible top left background. This driver is a bit far back in the line. Hopefully it was a busy day, and he moved up to the front of the line, (at Decatur and St. Peter).
Buggy Ride evolution
The business of offering buggy rides to Vieux Carre visitors began before WWII. Clem and Violet Lauga founded Gay 90s in the early 1940s. They retired, turning the business over to their son, James Lauga, Sr., in 1971.
Carriage tours were regulated by the city as a conveyance. They fell under the purview of the city’s Taxicab Bureau. So, what mattered to the regulators was the safety of the carriages and how they were operated. Nobody took an interest in the stories the buggy drivers actually told their customers. As a result, a lot of fanciful and inaccurate stories about New Orleans went home with visitors. Licensed tour guides dismissed those stories as “buggy ride history.” The tour guides enticed tourists seeking facts and accuracy. Riding a carriage through the Quarter was fun, but come to us for the stories.
In the 1990s, the city put its foot down on “buggy ride history.” Carriage drivers are now required to be licensed tour guides.
Horses versus Mules
Until the 1970s, carriage ride operators used retired race horses to pull tourists. They purchased horses from owners who ran them at the Fair Grounds. When he took over management of the company, James Lauga, Sr., investigated the use of mules. He learned that draft mules were superior to horses for pulling wagons and carriages. Jim Sr. purchased six mules in 1972. The company has operated with mules ever since. Mules have played an important role in the New Orleans economy for centuries, from riverfront wagons to streetcars.
In the mid-1970s, around the time of this photo, hot summers took a toll on the horses pulling carriages. Horses dropped dead of heat exhaustion in the Quarter. The city council then required all buggy-ride companies use mules.
Royal Carriages today
As mentioned above, Gay 90s Carriages is now Royal Carriages, where scholar, museum operator and buggy-ride tour guide Charlotte Jones roamed the streets with Chica.
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.
1101 Decatur Street is described by the Historic New Orleans Collection as:
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.
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.
Brennan’s Autumn 1966 meant interesting meals all day.
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.