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.
Live-action! Oscar’s puppets were more than just the Bingles!
“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.
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.
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.
The Bridgedale branch of the Jefferson Parish Library system.
Photo of the interior of the Bridgedale branch in the Jefferson Parish Library system, 1940s. The photographer is not credited. The State Library of Louisiana dates the photo only to 1940-1949. Their caption says, “B&W photo, Circa 1940s. Jefferson Parish library. Bridgedale Library. Metairie, La. Standing Mrs. Mary Lindsey, seated unknown.” While the caption refers to “Bridgedale,” this is the “Old Metairie” library branch, on Metairie Road. The parish library system expanded in 1949. So, that narrows the date of the photo. It’s possible this photo dates to 1950-1951.
In her book, Legendary Locals of Metairie, Catherine Campanella explains that “Bridgedale” refers to the 1920s neighborhood leading up to the not-yet-built Huey P. Long Bridge. The first library branch in Metairie opened on Metairie Road and Atherton Street. While this location stands outside of the area recognized as “Bridgedale,” the branch picked up the name. After the state completed the actual bridge in the 1930s, the section of the parish from Central Avenue to Transcontinental Drive developed. In 1952, the parish opened Bridgedale Elementary, on Zinnia Street and West Metairie Avenue. Therefore, the nebulous neighborhood designation focused to the area flowing out from the bridge. Additionally, JPL opened the Wagner branch, on Kawanee Street, north of Veterans Blvd.
So, this photo is from Metairie Road. This was the first public library I used as a kid. We lived on Dream Court, just off Bonnabel Blvd. Like the other original library branches, the parish owned the building. They transferred it to the library system. My time as a Metairie branch patron was in the mid-1960s. So, when we moved closer to the 17th Street Canal, this branch was still the closest. We relied on bookmobile service. The parish system appreciated the distance factor. They brought the library to us. Eventually, JPL constructed the Lakeshore Branch. It stands at the corner of Oaklawn and W. Esplanade.
A real Bridgedale branch
In 1997, JPL opened the East Bank Regional Library, at 4747 W. Napoleon Avenue. This 100,000 sq ft facility stands between Clearview and Transcontinental. So, Bridgedale didn’t just get a branch. They got the main library!
Maison Blanche tire store on Airline Highway in Metairie.
Maison Blanche tire store
The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche operated a Tire Store at 1920 Airline Highway, in Metairie, from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The store was in between the store at S. Carrollton and Tulane (where Airline Highway began) and the Airline Village store, a couple of blocks further up the road. The photo is from Franck Studios, via the HNOC. It was shot on 17-October-1960.
The big-name department stores included auto service and tire sales in their portfolios. In addition to Maison Blanche, D. H. Holmes, Krauss, and Sears all offered auto service. While the draw to downtown customers was get the car serviced while shopping, the stores offered local convenience to suburban New Orleans.
What attracted customers to the department stores for auto service was credit. Your MB tire purchases could be charged to your MB account. Same for the other stores. At a time where there were no bank cards like VISA and MasterCard, this was important. Tires weren’t cheap, and the department stores set up payment plans for their customers. This built loyalty to the store.
The department store-owned auto service stores began to fade out in the 1980s. By the 1990s, only Sears operated an auto center, next to their store in Clearview Mall in Metairie. Goodyear and Firestone expanded their chains, and Walmart entered the market. The Sears auto center at Clearview remained until 2019. Sears closed both the department store in the mall, as well as the auto center. The mall demolished the auto center. A branch of Regions bank now stands in its place.
1960s Airline Highway
Airline Highway is US 61, which connects New Orleans to Baton Rouge and points west. Prior to the construction of I-10, Airline Highway was the main route to the state’s capital city. As Metairie grew, so did retail outlets like MB and the tire store. A billboard for Brennan’s Restaurant stands behind a Mobil Oil gas station, with the company’s well-known red Pegasus sign.
Pumping Station 6 drains 17th Street Canal.
Pumping Station 6
Drawings from Historic American Building Survey LA-1235, Pumping Station 6, Orpheum and Hyacinth Streets. This pumping station spans the 17th Street Canal, just north of Metairie Road. Built in 1899, it’s the oldest station in service today. Wood-screw pumps designed by A. Baldwin Wood replaced the original pumps in the early 1900s.
The 17th Street Canal
The 17th Street Canal separates Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, from just south of Metairie Road to Lake Pontchartrain. The city changed the name of 17th Street to Palmetto Street in 1894. While the street changed, the name of the canal stuck.
The 17th Street Canal connected several Orleans Parish drainage canals to Lake Pontchartrain. Pumping Station 6 sits just north of Metairie Road because the land beyond the station was essentially undeveloped. Canals in Uptown and Uptown-backatown drained into 17th Street. Water accumulated in the station’s intake basin. The pumps pushed water further along the canal, out to the lake.
Evolution over time
While this design made sense in 1899, growth on both sides of the 17th Street Canal presented complications. Pumping Station 6 kept the water in the canal flowing, but it wasn’t able to lower water levels north towards the lake. Additionally, residents of Bucktown on the Jefferson Parish Side of the canal resisted changes at the lake end. A small fishing community developed along the canal. Those fishermen provided seafood to restaurants and shops in Bucktown and West End. Construction of a new pumping station would close access to the lake from the canal.
So, by 2005, the 1899 design failed to properly defend neighborhoods north of Pumping Station 6 from flooding. Water levels in the canal rose. The US Army Corps of Engineers built higher levees. Since there was insufficient easements to further raise the levee height, USACE build floodwalls. When Hurricane Katrina forced water from the lake into the canal, the floodwall gave way, drowning most of Lakeview and a significant portion of Mid-City.
The Historic American Building Survey series provides a valuable service. There are a number of HABS sets available for buildings and other structures in and around New Orleans.
JC Ellis Memories of my elementary school days.
JC Ellis Memories
I’ve been working on de-cluttering my home office this week. In the back of my desk drawer, I found a ziplok bag with a bunch of stuff from my childhood. Boy Scout medals and patches, assorted pins and buttons, etc. I pulled out a button from J. C. Ellis Elementary School in #themetrys. I attended J. C. Ellis (after Kindergarten at Kehoe-France in 1963-64) for grades 1-4, 1964 to 1968. Momma moved my sister and I from Ellis to St. Angela Merici for the 68-69 school year. She felt that attending Catholic school would improve our chances of getting into Catholic high schools. Keep in mind, this was peak baby boom, and acceptance into those schools (Brother Martin for me, Archbishop Chapelle for my sister) wasn’t a given.
Private to Public to Catholic
Jefferson Parish Public Schools didn’t offer Kindergarten back in the day. So, my parents sent me to Kehoe-France. While we lived in the area for Metairie Grammar School on Metairie Road, my mom, the late Anne Finicle Branley, was principal at Ellis. Therefore, she brought me to her school. I don’t recall much in the way of privilege by being the principal’s kid. In fact, I don’t remember seeing my mom much during the school day. After class ended, I went over to the library to wait for her to go home. I read encyclopedias. Yeah, I was that kid.
I don’t recall specifically why I received this award button. At first I thought it was for Safety Patrol, but I didn’t do that until fifth grade at St. Angela. So, I’m stumped on the details. Even though Ellis had a Cub Scout pack, I joined the pack at Mulholland Memorial Methodist on Metairie Road. Momma was adamant about not mixing work and family. She didn’t want to have to talk to Ellis parents outside of work. I did Boy Scouts at St. Angela.
Ellis is still there more
My JC Ellis Memories come back when I’m in the school’s neighborhood. That’s relatively frequent, since I shop regularly at Martin Wine Cellar. That store is the old Sena Mall movie theater. While many of the businesses on Veterans Blvd. changed, go one block back on Brockenbraugh Court, and Ellis is still rolling. I’ve been thinking about my mom and her years of work in the parish public school system. I don’t think she would approve of the rush to return to school in the face of the novel coronavirus.