JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
I recall a drive-in that had a neon sign featuring an Indian cooking over an outdoor fire. Chicken-in-the-basket was a main feature.
We were away from 1943 to ’46, and by the time I started driving in ’51, I don’t recall seeing the place. I think it was on the corner of Claiborne and Napoleon avenues.
If so, was that the only location?
You have the location half-right. Your memory is correct that the restaurant was on South Claiborne Avenue, but the cross street was Poydras, not Napoleon Avenue. Located at 537 S. Claiborne Ave., your mysterious chicken joint was one of three White Kitchen restaurants and operated from the mid-1930s until about ’50.
Onesime Faciane’s small Louisiana restaurant chain began in Slidell in the mid-1920s and, 10 years later, opened additional locations on U.S. Highway 90 at U.S. 190 and on South Claiborne Avenue at Poydras Street in downtown New Orleans. Restaurant signage depicted an American Indian kneeling down to cook over an open fire.
Fried chicken, prepared from specially bred milk-fed fowl raised on the company’s own Northshore farm, was one of several products for which White Kitchen was famous. Others were the restaurant’s barbecue sauce and White Kitchen Cellars, a Kentucky whiskey from the Bernheim Distillery, makers of the renowned I. W. Harper whiskey. For those customers preferring mixed drinks, White Kitchen’s head bartender, Gene Faciane, could whip up one of his signature drinks, such as the West Indies Cocktail or Gene’s Special, a concoction that carried with it a money-back guarantee.
I am in possession of a family artifact, a letter containing a personal poem written by my grandmother to my grandfather, a sweetly veiled suggestion that a proposal of marriage would be taken to heart. Having already confessed, dear Julia, the answer, the now pressing question involves grandfather’s reference, in response, to their neighborhood, his elegant words marking for posterity “… I would consider myself very much guilty had I failed to answer yours … especially ‘One’ whom I hold aloft to be the foremost girl in our village of ‘Cold Bowers.’”
I have always wanted to know the mystery behind the identity of this neighborhood, as it has long ceased usage, but my Aunt, now 87 and the youngest child of their four girls, confirms that she knew the name throughout her childhood. We are curious to know if there is information in writing or through recollection as to the meaning of the name “Cold Bowers.” Time is moving on, and we despair that we or other Uptowners may not too much longer be able to turn over this old stone so familiar to my and others’ ancestors. Can you help? The area is believed to have been roughly bounded by Claiborne Avenue and Fountainbleau Street on or around Calhoun Street.
Johnette L. Martin
I haven’t heard of a neighborhood called “Cold Bowers,” but I know the name was popular enough around the turn of the century for some Uptown kids to name their baseball team the Cold Bowers. When the New Orleans Item’s evening edition of May 14, 1904, reported the past week’s amateur baseball game results, it stated that a team called the McMurrays defeated the Cold Bowers in a game that had been played at Louisiana Avenue and Saratoga Street.
I suspect the name “Cold Bowers” may have come from a poem that may have once been well known in this area. In 1912, The Times-Picayune ran its “Booklovers’ Contest” in which readers would purchase a booklet then attempt to solve the booklet’s visual puzzles, the solutions of which were titles of literary works. One of the featured titles was poet George Darley’s The Labours of Idleness, a work that included a little poem called “The Wild Bee’s Tale,” a stanza of which reads as follows:
Give me Earth’s rich sun and flowers,
Give me Earth’s green fields and groves.
Let him fly to Eden’s Bowers,
He who such cold bowers loves.
– George Darley
While I cannot be absolutely certain that Darley’s poem inspired your grandparents and others to use the name “Cold Bowers,” I find it interesting that the unusual turn of phrase happens to appear in a literary work, the title of which was sufficiently well-known that it was featured in a local newspaper contest which ran when your grandparents were young.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
In the early 1970s, my family and I often ate Sunday breakfast at the A & G Cafeteria on Broad and Canal streets. Most of the time, I ordered “silver dollar” pancakes, which I fondly recall as having been delicate and delicious.
I never gave it a thought when I was little, but now that A & G is long-gone has it occurred to me that I don’t know what the “A & G” initials actually meant. Do you think you can solve the mystery for me?
A & G Cafeterias were run by Finest Foods, Inc., which also operated Mrs. Drake Sandwich Shops. Founder Clifton L. Ganus Sr. (1903-’55) was the original “G” in “A & G.” The lesser-known “A” was business partner Robert L. Atkinson Sr. who, during the company’s early years, sold his interest to Ganus and returned to his day job as a civil engineer.
The A&G location you so fondly recall opened in 1962 in honor of the chain’s 30th anniversary. Now long-gone, the building at 2621 Canal St. was a gem of modern architectural design.
Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch
Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Richard Harrison, Monroe; and Johnette L. Martin, New Orleans.